Computers

Start as You Mean To Go On Manage Information with Start Pages

Stone Age Computer

Stone Age Computer


I am not aware of any evidence that Stoneage people sat around waiting for the Online Delivery Van from the supermarket of their choice. In the past if we wanted something we had to physically go and get it. Nowadays thing are different. We can, if we choose, veg in front of the screen and make the goods come to us.

The same goes for news. Yes there is still a town crier in Topsham, where I live, he has a nice little label on the back of his nice little Rover. On Saturday we go to the paper shop because it makes us feel that the weekend is with us. True we could turn the telly on for news, but, now with computers and RSS feeds news can come to us, on demand, in the flavour that we desire.

We also get notification of our friends’ lives to compare, contrast and fret over with Facebook. We get those necessary minute by minute updates via Twitter and interesting oh so essential insights through blogs. We can feed our (British) obsession for the weather and convey our day to day endeavours to the wider world through a fully synched Google-iCal-Nokia-Suite-calendar-widget-thingy.

Then we can sit worrying because we know we have forgotten some aspect of this helpful technology but don’t know which. In the past we worried about the gas or the tap being left on now I suppose it is ‘is my firewall operating?’ We can also add a certain piquancy to our annoyance when the various online alarms start going off just after the meeting that we have just set off for has been cancelled, via text of course.

But all this technology can be useful and fun, it just needs a bit of management and this is where start pages come in.
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Some Things Should Change – Why IE6 is holding the internet back.

We ate last night in China-Town in London in The New World, a restaurant that I first went to over 20 years ago. To be honest it hadn’t really changed at all. In fact I ‘m not certain it had even been decorated but that was what I wanted, the food was enjoyable and the service friendly.

When I was first there I was a student. At college we used very early Apple Macs in the labs and the adventurous were word processing their work. There were no mobile phones, no internet, and no email. The Photographer’s Gallery (where I am now) was near Leicester Square, whereas it is now just off Oxford Street.

Walking round London some things change a lot but others seem not to at all. Earlier I had a double expresso in The Bar Italia in Soho. The Gaggia machine was ‘old school’, hand pulled, refreshingly quiet whilst still making exceptional coffee. On the large screen TV, Murray was getting through to the semi-finals in the Australian Open much to the enjoyment of the Italian and Eastern European staff. Take the screen out and the setting would have been difficult to date, maybe the clothes would give the game away.

Some things change, some things stay the same, some things should change, but stay the same.

We Are The People Who Try

I am just coming out of a intense week or so of website building. The customer wanted something a bit different, saw the way the Apple presents previews of images and said I want that. I now know how to make that happen on a website. As Fahti the swimmer says, “we are the people who try”. I can’t think of a period of my life when I have done so much learning, independent learning, the ultimate aim of the education system. The information is out there, accessible (subject to cautious analysing and filtration of course). There is a huge generosity of spirit too, with people wanting to share ideas and knowledge. This is a good thing (I think) but very different to twenty years ago.

The other day I spoke to someone who only recently learnt how to cut and paste on her computer. This may seem strange but she has always used Macs where there is a long history of drag and drop. She has always just pulled what she wanted from one document and dragged it straight on to another. Macs have always had a very visual appeal, there is a strong visual metaphor and I suspect that for this reason they appeal to very different people. I am always surprised when I hear people complain about how difficult macs are to get to grips with, for me at least they seem very intuitive. However when I attended a night class that used the Windows platform I felt like a complete and utter numpty. Whatever though the Mac Vs PC seems to get to peoples’ core.


In my house now I regularly have a number of computers, currently a Mac G3(BW) desktop, a G3 Pismo PowerBook, a G4(DA), a G4 MacMini (my FTP server) and a Unibody MacBook Pro. This tally sometimes swells when two other current MacBooks come to visit as well as my son’s Toshiba PC. Apart from the G3 they all work, the only reason the G3 doesn’t is because I sold the processor. Oh there is one more, maybe the most important, I have an old Dell laptop, with a German keyboard.

So they all work, the ten year old Pismo is used by the children, it’s rather slow now but hey? But what of the Dell, what’s that all about?

Well, I use it to test websites (to destruction). You see, it is old and slow, but uses the much loathed IE6 browser. IE6 is still used by around 10% of users but unfortunately it is no longer compliant with current web standards. This means that in order to get a website to work on this browser designers will have to design in a number of hacks and workarounds. This invariably means that a compromise has to be made either to the visual appeal or the functionality and yes I realise that these two should be inherently linked. So, when it is testing time, yes it is lovely to see how good the site looks on the Mac but unfortunately much as I love them the truth is that Safari accounts for 3.4% of the (browser) market, and as such the hopeless old IE6 with all of its failings will be the window that three times more people will use.

The good news is that 46% of people will use Firefox which is a pretty good browser. Increasingly design companies are dropping support for non-complient browsers. You can get a WordPress plugin to display a large gaudy banner if the viewer is using IE6. Somewhat devilishly this plugin can be set to crash IE6 although I haven’t felt the need to be so annoying on this site.

Some grow old gracefully and get a bit slower with age whereas others get really a little too grumpy for words.

A couple of days after this post the BBC reported that “Google has begun to phase out support for Internet Explorer 6, the browser identified as the weak link in a cyber attack on the search engine.” (more)

Serendipity -SEO improving Search Engine Rankings in Devon

Serendipity is the effect by which one accidentally stumbles upon something fortunate, especially while looking for something entirely unrelated.

Serendipity Ifracombe

Serendipity Ifracombe

In my last post we looked at some basic issues to do with improving Search Engine Rankings or SEO. I suggested that there was scope for to make marked improvements in their rankings. So lets look at an example a simple startup site.

Serendipity Ilfracombe

Holiday accommodation is a deeply competitive market, particularly here in the South-West. Resorts have their ups and downs, Ilfracombe would appear to be on the up. However there are an awful number of competitors in this market.

People are far from rational in their everyday behaviour. Some have neat tidy minds but for many of us it is a bit of a sprawl. Memory is optional and to be honest getting the shopping done will probably knock that important phone number out of the ‘things to remember’ file. Anyhow we no longer remember phone numbers do we? I can remember the phone number of the house I lived in when I was a teenager (Waddington 688) but I don’t know the land-line that I pay for now, I don’t really use it. People may remember a name, a place, they may know what to look for and although they may not know the full ins and outs of Boolean searches. The way that many people use search engines borders on the bizarre, often people have found a way that works and have never ventured towards improvement.

So, Serendipity, Ilfracombe. If you Google those two words as I just have you see my customer’s site at the top of the page. This is a start. The website has been up for a relatively short period of time (a couple of months), it is early days yet. Of course, unlike Starbucks people won’t necessarily know that Serendipity exists, this isn’t enough. However some might, or they may tell others about the accommodation and its name. It is easy to remember this one bit of info and to access the website from this simple search

“Tariff, Holiday, Ilfracombe” results in a position two result with “Booking, Holiday, Ilfracombe” giving a still respectable position 11. “Well, Priced, Holiday, Accommodation, Ilfracombe” gives a P2. Interestingly (for me at least) “well, priced, holiday, devon” gives a similarly high ranking (P2) as indeed does “well, priced, holiday, south-west”.

We are now getting into the realm of useful results. We can see that the Google results will work for those with a brand awareness and those who have never even heard of the resort.

Although a small starter site it was designed with search engines in mind. Headings, titles and text all serve a purpose. It is still early days but, we seem off to a good start.

You can download a PDF brochure for Serendipity here.

Rich Text -The value of keywords in Google SEO

I have a number of domains and have recently started using Twitter. In addition I have a Facebook presence and network through Linkedin. With Linkedin I am part of a group as part of my membership of the Chartered Society of Designers. All of this would of course totally fail the Grandpa Test, to be honest my son thinks it is a load of tosh. However I have recently been Skyped by my father so he may be more receptive. The simple truth is that many people think it is all twaddle and quite simply don’t get it at all.

Last Friday I sat trying to explain Twitter to a customer who’s website we are currently developing and to be fair it is a hard thing to explain. The irony is that it was she who had first suggested Twitter for her website and I only joined the community to learn more.

Yesterday I Googled my name (I Google therefore I am?), my Twitter details came up third in the rankings. I am a convert.

Further searches brought my Linkedin status, references to my Twitter activity and this blog in the top six. I have only recently re-visted Linkedin and this self-hosted blog has been up for less than a month. Not bad, not bad at all.

About six months ago I couldn’t find myself through a reverse search on Google at all, I just didn’t appear either through my own name or as Design Credo. Of course there was a simple reason to this, my Design Credo website was set up quite some time ago and things change. Around the time we developed the site I took a break from design and moved into education, the site wasn’t attended to although it has remained hosted throughout. When we set the site up we didn’t really attend to making the site search engine friendly and anyway conditions were very different then.

So, any ideas what started here in 1998?

Any Ideas?

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Ain’t Free WiFi Great?


Cappuccino, another thing that wouldn’t pass the Grandpa test; tea certainly, coffee if you were a bit racy, but cappuccino no way. There are three good cappuccinos to he had in Exeter, Lutzy’s (Portuguese not Italian), Espresso. The Boston Tea Party and the latter is where I am, surrounded by people, a surprising number of whom are working, many on WiFi enabled laptops.

Across the way is a man who I spoke with the other day when we shared a table, he had a number of books about adult learning and psychology and said that he enjoyed working amongst people.

Many years ago when people first started talking about the ‘computer revolution’ there was a suggestion that everyone would work from home and would not need to leave the house. Well, that hasn’t quite happened but, for those of us who can work in such a way, can I suggest that whilst this has it’s benefits frequently it sucks. People need people, not all he time but people need people.
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Food For Thought; An Update of Some Useful Social Media Stats

For the record, at the time of me uploading this the above (remake) video had been viewed 1,239,045 times.