25 October 2011

Web display - some statistics to bear In mind these days

Windows 7 overtook Windows XP at last a little while ago. Mac and Linux maintain a small but constant share and it will be interesting to see how Android and mobile browser use statistics grow.

There are three clear leaders in the browser field: Firefox, Chrome and Internet Explorer. Google and Mozilla continue to eat away at Microsoft's domination. Will IE9 halt that decline? Will Chrome take over the No.1 spot?

Time was when we designed web pages for users with 800 pixel screens with some nods towards the 1024 folk with nice backgrounds to occupy the space either side. Now, it would seem safe to move to utilise an extra 25% of monitor estate although we may have to make mobile versions more readily available too. Unless your site is going to appear as a small box on the screen it may be time to look again at all those 760 pixel pages! But let us hope text lines don't start stretching.

These charts have been made using Google Documents' Spreadsheets and feature data from W3Schools. The nice thing about Google Charts is that now you can add them to sites not as a mere image but as an interactive feature where you can move the mouse to see more data and if I change the 'home' spreadsheet these will be automatically updated too. That is just so cool.

Google Charts are still in development and I noticed that I wasn't able to add a text box (for the thanks to W3Schools bit, for instance) and the Spreadsheet is still a bit clunky compared to Excel. Try as I did, changing the dates so that they would actually be interpreted as dates not text proved impossible (unless I added 1 to each which would have been a drag) and percentages seem to have to be either 0 or 2 decimals (or umpteen, perhaps) just not 1 decimal point as I wanted. No doubt someone will tell me how to fix these things under the bonnet before long!

Beware! Statistics Are Often Misleading

You cannot - as a web developer - rely only on statistics. Statistics can often be misleading. Global averages may not always be relevant to your web site. Different sites attract different audiences. Some web sites attract professional developers using professional hardware, while other sites attract hobbyists using old low spec computers. Also be aware that many statistics may have an incomplete or faulty browser detection. It is quite common by many web-stats report programs, not to detect the newest browsers. (The statistics above are extracted from W3Schools' log-files, but they are also monitoring other sources around the Internet to assure the quality of these figures).

12 October 2011

I Need Islands In My Stream

My goodness, things are changing so quickly! I am doing my best to keep up but doing so is my excuse for not having written anything here for ages. I will try and make up for that with some posts about all sorts of exciting new applications and web tools in a while. For now, though, I thought it might be a good idea simply to share this feeling of being overwhelmed - excitedly overwhelmed, I should add, but also slightly exhaustingly so too!

I blame Google Plus. A little while ago it was a pretty but pretty dead area where one or two posts would appear in my stream, like a few headlines in a newspaper. Twitter was my main source of morning news and E-mail is something that I'd look at as apart from a very quick scan by phone to make sure I wasn't missing something important.

My Rockmelt browser would advise me if there were any Facebook messages so, unless my daughter was panicking about something, I didn't need to go there which had somewhat brought my incoming stuff back into some sort of order. Rockmelt also lets me mark tweets to read later if a first glance wasn't enough or a link needed to be clicked so that was vaguely under control.

Not so, Google Plus. I now have a genuine stream of fascinating, interesting and other complimentary adjectives I could apply to the posts that are arriving from all over the place. Really talented people in mainly Tech or Educational fields, mostly, but, for my sins and probably much to the annoyance or frustration of some people who follow me, also things to do with X Factor now that I am writing the reviews and recaps for both the USA and UK programmes and getting featured in various web magazines. I cannot keep up with it all. I want to. I try but I am staying up until the early hours of the morning most nights now just browsing through the steam and adding comments as and when I can.

Retirement would be brilliant because I could do this in the normal, sensible part of a day. However, there's too much interesting work to do to even envisage such a concept just yet. there's also the small matter of needing income. But there Google Plus offers hope too as I may well find that one or two of the new people who are reading the stuff I write might actually like me to write or do a bit more and pay me for it. The main problem is that everyone is just too damn interesting. Google Plus is not like Twitter or Facebook. Twitter shows you very short bursts of views, ideas or whatever from people that you follow. Facebook is a bundle of comments and status changes, mostly, amongst my 'friends', of a social nature and which can be smiled at, grunted at and I can move on without my brain being unduly challenged. Google Plus provides me with much longer items, usually well-written too, from experts in their fields about subjects that interest me and offering advice which I'd like to take or at least try out or asking for help which I'd like to provide.

And these posts are coming from far and wide, people I've never met, seen or passed in a conference corridor. They're in Circles that I've added to my Circles because they seemed just as deserving of being there as those I do know and I also get the comments and ideas and links that people in their Circles have added. At this rate I shall have vast numbers of posts flying down my screen and I don't have a clue how to handle them all and, more importantly, remember the ones that either I remembered wanting to remember or, even more importantly, remember that I had said I would respond or do something for some of those that I have now drifted past and into the first or second stream hidden under a More button.

LinkedIn people don't stand a chance of hearing from me more than once a month at this rate and I have completely abandoned Plaxo and Plurk. They had their uses but they used too much time that I no longer have spare.

I am also beginning to wonder if I should get a vertical instead of horizontal screen as, at it stands now, a few hours' worth of e-mail occupies the whole of a screen and, unless I am really fast archiving, labelling or deleting in GMail, someone's message has disappeared from view only to emerge several days later when I do eventually either remove its successors on the page or press the Next 25 button. In fact, I am beginning to wonder whether I shouldn't start displaying them in reverse date order. I wonder if I can?

I have now managed to get Google Plus to show me Twitter and Facebook streams without leaving its environs which is a good start. I can also post to whichever I choose or to the whole damn lot from there which is marvellous. That uses an add-in called SGPlus. Google must surely eventually come up with their own but, until they do, SGPlus is worth a a look for Chrome users.

On the occasions when I do have to dive into Facebook it seems that I have a new learning experience each time with ever-changing (and, I must say, quite impressive) displays of whatever is there. With its new Active Display my blog tool of choice, Blogger, is also now threatening to take over my daily news with a display that looks remarkably like a ruddy newspaper in some options too. But I already have paper.li aggregating all that it thinks I might want to read anyway.

I now learn that Google Goggles can solve my good old-fashioned Daily telegraph suduko, crossword and it won't be long before it does the balancing birds too. So maybe that will give me more time to read the rest. and perhaps catch up with my article writing on what is going on. Maybe. We'll see. Watch this space.