Archive for the ‘Website Development’ 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 Are You Using the Wrong Browser?

Imagine wearing a pair of special sunglasses that only allow you to see in black and white.  You can see everything, but you don’t see all of the colors and shades.  You don’t see the shadows, because they blend in too much, and the picture of the world in front of you isn’t as clear as it should be because the shades are dirty and smudged from years of use.  Now imagine that you never take those shades off and eventually begin believing that what you are seeing is what the world really looks like.  This is what happens when you use a browser that is out of date.

A couple of months ago, I mentioned the growing competition of Google Chrome and Firefox over Internet Explorer.  While different sources disagree over who holds the current title of the most popular browser, it is clear that Chrome and Firefox have made big strides in catching up with, and possibly surpassing, the success of Internet Explorer.  What you may not realize, if you are not immersed in some of the internet technology based discussions, is that not all browsers show the same site.

Each browser, by its very definition, shows a webpage in its own way.  Many things will remain constant between them.  Red will still be red, and large text will still be bigger than small text.  However, how images, videos, and general pieces of a website are displayed differ from browser to browser.  Each browser has its own rendering features, which internet website developers have learned to account for.  Putting something as simple as a shadow onto a colored box requires a separate code for Firefox, Chrome and IE.  Plus, not all features are supported by all browsers.

For instance, in Chrome and Firefox, you can have a multi-stop gradient, that is, a gradient that fades from one  color to a second color to a third color, at pre-programmed spacing.  Internet Explorer does not support this feature.  There are work-a-rounds, such as creating an image from the gradient and using that image, not the colors themselves, as the background.  Of course, this is terribly inefficient and adding text to the website, which would make the site taller, would disrupt the background.  In many ways, these work-a-rounds force the developer back to the stone age of web development where everything had to fit in a neat little box.

Unfortunately, there are also websites that were developed, for one reason or another, to utilize only Internet Explorer and will not work with any of the other browsers.  As a developer, I find these to make very little sense, since anyone who has checked these statistics will find that less and less people are using internet explorer so websites that force them to use a browser they don’t want to use may suffer the fate of being ignored by those who would take offense at having to use something they don’t like because it makes the programmer’s life easier.  With the amount of technology and computer languages that are supported on every browser, I find it hard to believe that the websites that are only available on IE could not be duplicated onto the other browsers.

This having been said, it seems that the trend of designing websites that are supported on only IE is diminishing and I firmly believe will fade away within a short amount of time.  Until that time, we all need to keep a copy of internet explorer loaded on our computers, just in case.  I personally only use it once or twice a week, if that.  Otherwise, it may behoove you to try out one of the other browsers for a bit.

If you are scared of changing, because you are so used to how internet explorer works, and you worry that it will take a long time to get used to a new browser, consider this: when you buy a new car, do you immediately know how to drive it perfectly?  Unless you are a professional driver, probably you do not.  Each car has a gas pedal that works a little different and a brake pedal that works a little stronger than your last.  You have to get used to a center console transmission instead of it being on your steering wheel.  It takes a little bit of time, but that does not mean you shouldn’t buy a new car when your old one has trouble keeping up with the other cars on the road.

Plus, changing browsers is free.  There are no internet browsers out there that cost money to download, except perhaps IE9, which requires Windows Vista or higher and so would need an upgrade, worth a couple hundred of dollars, from anyone still using XP, which is still approximately 30% of the population.  However, those same XP users are free to use either Firefox or Chrome in the latest versions without paying anything for an upgrade.

Who knows, you may even like the new browser better than the one you are using.  You would most certainly not be the first to do so.

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 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]