Archive for the ‘Website Design’ Category

postheadericon Language of the Future?

For today’s post, I pose an interesting question.  In the world of web design and development, there are a couple major computing languages.  Some are complimentary, and some are competition.  So, which holds the key to the future?  What language is leading the way of technology?  Let’s examine a few and try to figure it out.

HTML

The base of all website development, html, or HyperText Markup Language, is what makes the web look like the web.  Without it, there would be only text, text and more text.  Html gives us images and the original markup of style, colors, and fonts.  For something so old, one would consider it almost antiquated, but while other languages have come to assist, without the use of html, they would still have nothing to display.  For this reason alone, we must give a nod to the originator of modern web languages.  And who knows?  With the advent of HTML5, we may not have seen the last tricks of this old dog.

CSS

From the old styles of html, a new language dawned.  Css, or cascading style sheets, allows for a wider range of styles and designs.  From the original css, through the newest css3, we now have 3-dimensional artistry, dropdown menus that appear on hover, opacity, rounded corners, and shadows of all colors and shades.  This language has not only been the colors and styles of the new web design industry, much like the artist’s pallette, it has also been one of the driving engines of the new browsers.  In some ways, the advent and popularity of css, especially CSS3, has driven a huge change in the market of browsers.  While Internet Explorer was slow on the uptake of this language, other browsers like Firefox and Chrome were able to take a bite out of the market leading to a radical shift in market share.  With all these designs, we can only imagine what the next generation of CSS will bring?  A sneak peak at CSS4 has already shown some wild new technologies coming soon, so stay tuned!

Javascript

While CSS added color, javascript added movement.  Suddenly, objects could fly across the screen.  The website could interact the the user in a more user-friendly way allowing the websites to be more geared towards the customer.  When the jquery library came on line and made it even faster and easier to utilize javascript in meaningful ways, the doors to the future of interactive website development seemed wide open.  Indeed, there are tons of things that javascript can help enable us to do, including reloading parts of a page without reloading the whole page using AJAX, validating information on a form before it is submitted, storing cookies for later visits onto the website and more.

PHP and ASP.Net

While Javascript was seeking to improve the experience on the visitor’s side, these two languages were seeking to do the same on the server side of things.  Now, perhaps it is inappropriate to link these two together, as they are vastly different and in many ways compete with one another, however they both aim to do the same thing which is to let the server drive the bones of the website.  This includes linking back to a database, be it MySQL or the more powerful SQL Server, which enables e-commerce solutions to function the way they do.  Without a database to store the information about the individual products being offered, there would be no way to try and sell the items.  These languages have also driven the new cms craze.  PHP in particular has been a driving force behind a number of Content Management Systems, most notable WordPress, which has become the number 1 cms and blogging software.  The entire system, and all the themes for it, are written in a combination of PHP, CSS, HTML and Javascript.  To an extent, it might be said that CMS systems encompass the best of everything the web has to offer.

The Verdict?

While no one language can truly stand on its own, it is my opinion that the one language that truly shows not only what has been done, but what can be done is CSS.  While still relatively limited in what it can do, the new generations of this language are evolving to levels never before seen.  With new language definitions, CSS has started taking some of the animation from Javascript.  The new CSS4 promises potential command-line scripting, which may take some of the server functions from PHP and ASP.NET.  Plus, the new email functionality may finally put an end to the dominance of HTML in the one medium that had not yet transitioned to the newer possibilities.  Indeed, the next couple of years may eventually see CSS take on the rest of the languages and become the dominant force of future web development, but only time will tell.

postheadericon Is Google About to Top the Browser Charts

As many of us are aware, internet browsing became popular through the use of a trusted and well known piece of software called Internet Explorer.  For many years, IE dominated the internet browsing world, with only a little bit of competition from Netscape on Windows and Safari on Mac, but that time came to an end.  According to statistics from www.w3schools.com, internet explorer has been on a steady decline in market share since March of 2003, where it peaked at 80% of the market share.  9 years later their market share has dwindled down to only 19.5%.

In January of 2009, Mozilla Firefox overtook Internet Explorer as the most popular browser.  However, by July of that year, it too started to decline in market share as a new competitor, Google Chrome, began its accent to the top.  By April of 2010, Google surpassed IE, taking over the number 2 spot behind Firefox, and has been continuously gaining ground since.

As of last month, Google has edged itself to within .3% of Firefox with 36.3% vs. Firefox’s 36.6%.  IE is down to 19.5%, like mentioned above, with Safari and Opera rounding out the remainder with 4.5% and 2.3% respectively.  If the trend continues, by next month, we may be hailing Google Chrome as the champion in this browser competition, at least for the time being.  As Internet Explorer and Firefox have demonstrated, nothing lasts forever.

How does this affect web developers and the population in general?

As many website designers and developers would attest to, Internet Explorer has been a thorn in our side for the last few years.  As Firefox and Chrome, along with Safari and Opera, embraced the most advanced technologies available, IE has been steadily falling behind, causing developers to need to almost develop an entire side twice.  Once for Internet Explorer and once for the rest of the world.  In addition, there are so many features that are lacking in older versions of Internet Explorer, that anyone running IE8 would never be able to see the websites they visit living up the glory that they have.

The good news is that IE9 at least brought potential fixes to some of these features, even if developers need to use different coding in some cases to achieve the same results.

The bad news is that IE9 won’t work on machines running Windows XP, which according to the same source above, is still used by over 31% of internet users.

More good news: Microsoft recently announced that IE10 will be debuting shortly, and is currently in developer testing stages.  You can download a version of it if you want, but we wouldn’t recommend it unless you are an experienced web developer.

More bad news: Microsoft has decided that IE10 will not be available on anything before Windows 7, which to be fair has garnered about 47% of the market at this point.  Still, this leaves anyone running Windows XP with only one way of viewing the latest technologies: drop Internet Explorer and go for one of the top dogs, either Firefox or Chrome.

Personally, as a Chrome user,  I am all for it taking the #1 spot.  Nothing against Firefox, mind you.  It is a good and stable browser, but with Google behind it, I see lots of potential for Chrome, including functionality between it, Google’s Android mobile phone operating system, and Google Chrome OS, Google’s attempt at taking cloud computing to a ridiculously new level.

If you are a Chrome user too, great!

If you are a Firefox user, your days as #1 may be up, but I wish you the best of luck.

If you are a Safari or Opera user, I don’t understand why you chose what you did, but I can appreciate your choice.

If you are using IE9, it could be worse, I suppose.

If you are still using IE8 or earlier, you may want to consider upgrading if possible or better yet switching to a different browser.  Just try it out.  It doesn’t take long to adjust and you can be sure you are seeing the website in the way website developers want you to.

postheadericon ActiveNation Returns Better Than Ever

We’re Back!

To our loyal readers, ActiveNation proudly returns to this blog after our months of being away. While we apologize for our lack of posts over these last few months, we would like to assure all of our followers that we are back from our hiatus.

In these last few months, we have been busy transitioning after our recent acquisition by Data Control, LLC, a local Richmond based database programming company that has been partnered with ActiveNation many times over the past years when we have needed each others’ services.

Now, as the two companies have merged into one, we have become a more efficient well-oiled machine that is ready to serve all of your search engine optimization, search engine marketing, pay-per-click management, and website development and maintenance needs and desires, as well as a variety of other programming services through our new parent company.

 

Moving Forward:

While we have been away, the world has kept turning.  The internet never stops changing, and so we must always be vigilant in our attempt to stay on top of the newest in internet trends.  While there isn’t enough space in this blog to go into detail about all the changes that have taken place, we wanted to list some of the topics to be covered in the upcoming posts, if only to whet your appetite.

 

The World Goes Mobile:

Smartphones have become the name of the game in the market of the modern age.  The internet is no longer limited to big bulky desktops or laptops where a local ethernet jack is readily available.  All of the world’s information now rests literally in the palm of our hand, and we must be prepared to face it.

Google Plus: The New Facebook?

Google has finally decided to get into the social media game with their new platform, Google Plus.  How will this affect the way we do business?  Is this the wave of the future or a fad that will fade into the background as quickly and quietly as myspace has over the past few years?

QR: Decoding the Trend:

If you have seen the square barcodes around, you know that these days people are being directed to websites and advertising material even when they are not surfing the web.  You could be walking around the local art museum or shopping mall, see one of these qr codes, scan it into your smartphone, and suddenly you are looking at the company’s specialized website.  How do we utilize this new trend in all of our marketing ideas?

 

It’s All About The Future

These topics and more are only the beginning of the latest in internet trends.  Internet marketing has become a whole new ballgame, and as we continue along the never-ending path towards website marketing, it will only get more exciting as the technology continues to radically change the way we do business everyday.

postheadericon Design Your Future At the Right School

So you’re passionate about web design and perhaps you’re contemplating enrolling in a web design program or institution. Now what? Well it doesn’t have to be as hard as you think. When you’re searching for the perfect design school it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the variety of options out there. Which is why you should prepare yourself by becoming aware of any preliminary factors to applying to a web design college or university before you decide which application to submit.

Know your Focus First and foremost, while you know that you want to be a web designer, it’s important to know your focus within the program. Since not every design school has the same curriculum, it’s good to know what courses you’re walking into before hand and whether or not they would be beneficial to your focus. There are plenty of roles you can take on as a designer and it’s good to know exactly what it is you want to do with your web design education and what kind of role you want to play in the web design world.

Know the Requirements You should know the requirements for a web design program. Whether you’re fresh out of high school or may be interested in continuing your education after attaining your college degree somewhere else, each college or university has their own preliminary requirements for entering their web design program. Although a lot of the criteria consist of general and common courses, pre-requisite classes and exams may be required before you can qualify to submit an application.

It’s also wise to know which schools are accredited and which are not so if you ever want to transfer or attain an additional degree at another institution, you want to make sure your credits transfer without a problem. If the school is not accredited you can become at risk for non transferable credits and ultimately may have to retake some courses. Not only that but if you graduate from an accredited school, your degree holds a much higher value.

Know the Curriculum It doesn’t hurt to visit the college or university’s website so you can catch a glimpse at the courses and course descriptions. This helps you prepare both mentally and financially when it comes to the course work-load, the information you will learn from your web design courses, any additional supplies you may need as well as textbooks.

Whether you’re considering attending a college campus or an online university, you can’t go wrong figuring out the basics of your search. Your dream web design school isn’t too far from your reach! As long as you do your research early, figure out what it is you really want to do within the field of web design and prepare yourself from there, you can’t go wrong. Remember to find what fits YOU best and the rest will fall into place. Good luck with your search!

postheadericon Keep This in Mind When Designing Your Site

When designing a memorable website there are many elements you should consider. Appearance, Navigation, Content, and overall site performance are significant components in the building process of your company website. You should consider what exactly it is you want your consumers and site visitors to take away from your site so that you know what to tell your web designer beforehand. I guess you can call it your blueprint. This will make the design process a little less complicated.

Making sure your website is user friendly is the first step in the process of designing your site. You want to make sure your website is easy to navigate by not allowing your site to be cluttered with graphics that will reduce allotted speed time. You also want to make sure that whatever content that comprises your site isn’t overbearing and is of quality. Let’s get real, a lot of visitors don’t read each and every word on a website, they skim and scan, so it’s good to not overwhelm web users with too many words and to make sure the words you do use are intriguing enough to keep them focused on your brand and no one else’s.

By having an attractive website, users will instantly receive gratification and confidence in the company they are viewing. It’s easy to become awed by an attractive website and ultimately makes you want to know more about the company and who these fabulous people are behind the meticulous design of their site. Using creative and large images are eye openers alone. Experiment with different color schemes and make sure everything looks neat and organized. If the company is honest about its design and appeal then they must be honest about their products and services, right?

Users don’t want to have pop up pages for each category of every section from a scroll bar of groups. Does that make sense? Of course not. When you visit a site, you want to be able to navigate to and through different areas of the website’s information departments without worrying about a bunch of different windows that take up your whole tab bar or multiple browsers. This can be an instant discouragement, and you don’t want that.

These are just some brief and simple components to take into consideration whether you’re designing your very own website. Either way, it’s significant to brainstorm your ideal website before putting it into action. After all, this site will represent your company and what you stand for. May as well think it through carefully and make sure your visitors are satisfied enough to visit again, and again…and again. Maybe they’ll even want to become a loyal customer. Now there’s a thought.

postheadericon Web Design vs. Web Development: What’s So Different?

Most commonly people believe that web design and web development are just two different terms for the same thing. Well, not exactly. It’s understandable why you would think this way considering they both go hand in hand, have many similarities, and you can’t really have one without the other. But they aren’t the exact same thing.

Web design focuses on the visual aspect of the website, the appearance. After all the key word in Web Design is…design. It’s basically a given but at the same time there is a little bit more that can go into design that also compliments Web Development. While web design can also involve basic coding like html and css web designers also utilize graphics, basic art and other design tools to produce a creative website. The design of the website also involves the smoothness of its navigation, the chicness in the appearance and the balancing of the two.

Wed Development is an elaboration of web design. Again the two go hand in hand, so while the design aspect is focused on the display of the site, development is what allows the design to be generated through codes, programming and other various elements. The web development process is what keeps the site running adequately.

In a nutshell you see the main differences between the two, and while they are pretty similar, they still each have their own identities and play different roles in the process of developing a website.

This picture is a great [and hilarious] approach to distinguishing the differences between a web designer and a web developer. Enjoy! [Image via www.sixrevisions.com]

postheadericon Common Web Design Mistakes Should Be Avoided

Web design can be a pretty time consuming and complex process. With that being said, when there’s complexity, mistakes come along with it. There are tons of mistakes that both companies and web designers make when developing and designing a website. Out of those mistakes there are a few that are the most common.

When you visit a company’s website, there are usually expectations that you set for that site. You expect an attractive and easily navigated site that will provide you with your interests. Sometimes consumers will base whether or not they will make a purchase or whether they will ever return back to that site on how the website looks and performs. This is all pretty reasonable right? You should consider some of the following common web design mistakes when looking to hire a professional to design your website.

Keeping Up Appearances

When you have a website that is easy on the eyes and not cluttered with ads and unorganized content, your chances of having consumers frequent your site are more likely. I mean who wants to navigate through a website that deters you from your goal of finding what you need by excessive pop ups, overly used flash images, confusing fonts and colors and a slow loading time? Having excessive graphics and ads not only hurts the eyes and is annoying but it can cause a slow performing site.

Also, it’s very important to have consistent, creative and clean content. Grammatical errors are a no-no so it’s good to edit and spare your company’s site from confusion amongst consumers.

Navigation and Usability

It shouldn’t be difficult for users to navigate through your site, period. It’s good to have a well structured site that makes the user’s visit smooth and accomplished. It’s important to not create obstacles because the more confusing the layout, the less likely that visitor will return. Drop down menus, excessive hyperlinks and registration tables are prime examples of obstacles that may drive consumers away. No one gets joy out of strolling through a site, only to realize you must jump through hurdles just to get the information that you need. It’s exhausting. Make sure everything is obvious and clean cut, without too much clicking of the mouse.

Testing, Testing

Testing your site to make sure its browser friendly is one of the most crucial steps to take when making sure your company site is usable. You want to make sure your site is easy to find in any search engine and from any given source. Easy accessibility is key. So test your site as much and as often as possible to make sure it is consistently visible and performing well.

There are so many mistakes that can be made when designing your website, the ones mentioned are only a few of the most common mistakes that are made. The best way to avoid these mistakes and others is proper design planning. When you breakdown a structural plan for your site and seek consultation with a professional web designer, you can’t go wrong. You’ll only find yourself constructing a sophisticated website that web users will want to visit again and again.