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Posts Tagged ‘web design’

April Fools 2009

I can’t keep the pretense up any longer, I’m not really a bodybuilder and it’s not really my new web site.  I’ve been redirecting this site to my alter-ego at all day long.  Fooled ya, didn’t I?

Kevin Blake - rumours of my career change have been greatly exagerrated

Rumours of my career change have been greatly exaggerated

Whilst rumours of my career change might have been greatly exagerrated, it’s been another good April Fool’s Day worldwide as individuals and businesses have thrown off any seriousness of the rest of the year by turning to Newsbiscuit-esque stories and ideas everywhere.  April 1st is of particular interest to me as a web developer, as an opportunity to proudly display the more playful side of a company, attract new audiences, and to make people smile.

So here are some of my favourites (apologies if a lot of these links don’t work.  Chances are, it’s not April 1st any more).  If you’ve been following me on Twitter today, you’ll have probably seen a lot of these already.

And lastly, in the papers…

Do you have any favourites I’ve missed?  Don’t forget, it’s never too early to start planning next years pranks 🙂

Code highlighting, and the magic of LINQ

I’ve had a small block of code in my drafts folder for quite some time now, just looking for an excuse to publish it.  I’ve been using LINQ a lot in the past 6 months, and it’s one of the recent additions to the language that’s made me think twice before using PHP or Perl for my own projects (despite the existence of PHPLinq).

HIM: LINQ’s like pringles
ME: only makes sense after drugs?
HIM: once you pop you can’t stop

But I didn’t really want to write a full post on LINQ.  It seemed dull.  It’d been done before.  It’s old news.

So I picked up the WP-SynHighlight extension for WordPress.  Which gives some rather cool code-highlighting through GeSHi.

So here’s some highlighted stylised C# LINQ demonstrating how simple it is to combine LINQ to SQL with LINQ to XML data sources.
[codesyntax lang=”csharp”]var answers = (from a in poll.Descendants(“AnswerSet”).Descendants(“Answer”)
join aCount in dbVotes
on a.Attribute(“id”).Value equals aCount.AnswerId.ToString() into aJoined
from o in aJoined.DefaultIfEmpty()
select new {
id = a.Attribute(“id”).Value,
percentage = ((o == null ? 0 : o.VotesCount) / dbVotes.Sum(b => b.VotesCount.GetValueOrDefault()) * 100),
count = o == null ? 0 : o.VotesCount, text = a.Value

Now if only Microsoft would release LINQ to XSD out of preview.

Why don’t you try the homepage? Idiot.

I recently read “The Inmates are Running the Asylum” by the father of VB, Alan Cooper. He spends quite a while arguing the case against obnoxious interfaces that make life difficult for your users. Quite right too. I highly recommend the read if you’re involved in any kind of user interface. Actually, I highly recommend it anyway – empower yourself with the knowledge that things don’t have to be this way.

Anyway, my small part towards eliminating frustration and annoyance was to try and create the perfect 404 page. And I know what you’re going to say… If you desire perfection, why would anyone ever even see your 404 page. Well you’re quite right, but it doesn’t hurt to be defensive about these sort of things. Accidents happen and believe it or not, not all of them are entirely my fault. Sometimes.

I’m not going to link to it here, because my 404 page automatically emails me whenever there’s a broken internal link. Frankly I could do without the hassle. That’s step one, and here are some more.

  • Tell the user what’s wrong. If they’ve come from another site (do this by checking the referrer URL), let them know which site, and that the link was broken at that end. If they haven’t – chances are it’s a bookmark / favourite. Tell the user that. The term ‘404’ is not helpful – telling the user what happened, is.
  • Recent Posts. It’s a blog. If you’re here, you’re most likely reading one of the latest five posts. If you’re applying this to your own non-blog site, list your most changed popular pages.
  • Search. If you’re looking for something and I’ve already failed to find it, searching seems more appropriate than to keep doing what you’re doing.
  • Possible matches. You’ve got a URL – use it. So I try to guess at what the user was hoping to find based on what’s in the URL. If you’ve got some decent SEO going on, chances are this will do better than you think.
  • Other helpful links. The homepage is generally a good starting point, and well, I don’t have a site map. But if I did – this would be another good thing to include.
  • Google Cache – Google maintains a cache, so why not make some use of it and point your visitors at it to hunt for your missing URL. This might not be exactly what you want for your site, but they could find it on their own anyway so stop being difficult.
  • Tags. All my posts are tagged, and provide a nice overview of what the posts are about, so let’s include those.

Turn your 404 page into a jump-board rather than a brick wall – or your readers are just going to find something better to do.

Gallery Tagging and Web X.0

Flickr’s had some really quite cool tagging facilities for quite some time now. In this day and age, it’s not enough to put something on the web. Anyone with AOL Website Builder can do that (and sadly, they do). The Semantic Web is all the rage now. You need to be embrace it if you’re going to be part of the the hip crowd of Web 2.0. Or is that for Web 3.0? I forget.

We’ve always had keywords, the meta content for your pages to help search engines out in finding your content. But that just doesn’t cut it any more. Nowadays you have be tagged or labelled, dynamic, geographically aware, mash-up your own content with a multitude of other sites, bleed ajax from your eyeballs, stay mobile, accessible, interactive, and generally ensure that no two-visits to your site are ever exactly the same. If you’re not achieving that quite frankly – you’re terribly 1.0, and I’m afraid – nobody.

So imagine my excitement when I heard the news that Gallery the leviathan behind Blakepics was going to be making more use of the beloved photo keywords, not just for search – but in a Flick-esque, semantic, ever-evolving keyword extravaganza. If this was excitement, then I was feeling it. After a long wait, and drooling over alphas, betas and release candidates – the dream has been made a reality, and the wait is finally over.

So, I now have the ability to supplement my standard albums with dynamic ones. Photos of Christmas in London can now be a part of both the Christmas and London “albums”. Dynamic albums showing off all the llamas, no matter where I saw them, or holidays, europe, america, mobile phone pictures. This has also introduced the keyword “cloud” at the bottom of every page, which not only gives a way of seeing the albums, but which keywords are the most popular.

It’s not the only addition / improvement of course – but it’s one I’ve been looking forward to for a very long time 🙂