Lies, Damn Lies and More Server Statistics | December 31, 2005

I almost never look at my server stats, so despite some great services such as Mint and Measure Map, I doubt I would get much use out of them. However when Google bought Urchin – effectively removing my hosting companies stats package – I decided to sign up for a free account and give it a whirl.

Google Analytics is a bit of a beast of a package, with far more information that I’d ever need. I have issues with the IA and usability of the package as well as it’s limited support for Safari, which makes Mint and Measure Map seem a lot more attractive. However as a FREE stats package, you can’t really complain.

I was looking at some the stats for this site the other day and thought I’d share some of the information with you.

For the month of December this site attracted a total of 63,716 visitors, working out at an average of 2,123 visitors per day. My highest spike was on the 9th where the site attracted 3,820 visitors while the lowest was on the 24th where the site had 1,142 visitors.

Site visitors for Dec 05

The readership of this site mostly comes from the US (35.49%) and the UK (15.62%), with a smaller proportion from Canada (5.06%) and Germany (5.05%). However the long tail is well in effect on this site, with the remaining countries making up 26.06% of the readership.

Country statistics for Dec 05

The majority of people visiting this site use Firefox (42.32%). However Internet Explorer usage is still surprisingly large at 37.85%. Safari comes in at a fairly respectable 14.39% with Opera coming in fourth at 2.98%.

Browser version statistics for Dec 05

55.74% of Firefox users are using version 1.5 while another 34.49% are using either 1.0.6 or 1.0.7, leaving 9.77% of people using Firefox 1.0.5 and older.

Statistics for Internet Explorer are very interesting, with a whopping 95.78% of visitors using IE6.0. Only 1.07% of people are using IE5.5 and 1.37% using IE5.0. That still amounts to 626 visitors over the course of the month, but is good news if and when I decide to redesign.

The majority of Opera users (90.58%) are using Opera 8.0 or greater, but that still means 191 Opera users are below that threshold. I had expected the majority of Safari users to have been on the latest version, but surprisingly version numbers were all over the place, one of the problems with having so many updates combined with versions being tied into OS versions.

browser/platforms statistics for Dec 05

Lastly I’m going to mention screen resolutions. It is evident that the readers of this site like their larger screen resolutions, with only 5.57% of visitors viewing this site on 800×600. Such a low percentage could make me tempted to optimise any redesign for 1024×768, but 5.57% amounts to a lot of people; 3,790 to be exact.

The most popular configuration is still 1024×768 at 39.77%, with 1280×1024 the second most common at 24.83%. However it was interesting to see that 29.83% of visitors view this site on one of 126 different resolutions. I honestly never knew there were so many resolutions available. The highest screen resolution recorded in December was a whopping 3840×1200. That’s over 4.6 million pixels of viewing pleasure!

Screen resolution statistics for Dec 05

If you’ve got a blog, why not post up your stats?

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On the Cutting Room Floor | December 31, 2005

I keep a file on my desktop called “blog posts.rtf” where I jot down ideas for interesting posts. Each idea usually consists of a title and a couple of lines of text. Occasionally they can also contain a bullet list of points, links to resources and code samples. Theses are all ideas that, for one reason or another, I’ve just never got around to writing up.

Some of them are now defunct, such as bugs in Opera or Firefox that have been fixed, or topics that have been discussed on other sites. However many of them still have potential and may make it onto this site next year, assuming I have the time. Anyway, here is the list in chronological order (oldest first)

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Places Still Left on Our Ajax Training Workshop | December 29, 2005

I just wanted to let you all know that we still have some places left on our Ajax Training Workshop on the 10th Feb. The early bird discount runs out on the 31st, so if you are interested in coming and would like to save £50, make sure you register or send your purchase orders before the end of the year.

I was lucky enough to get a preview of one of Jeremy’s Ajax sessions at the recent Yahoo! developers conference in London and was very impressed. So if you come along you definitely won’t be disappointed.

Rather than focussing on a particular framework or set of tools, Jeremy takes you back to basics, explaining exactly how XMLHttpRequest works and how it can be deployed in a lightweight and accessible manner. Jeremy will then work through a series of practical examples to show you how Ajax can be used to enhance your web site or application. If you have dabbled with JavaScript before, this workshop will have you adding Ajax functionality to your sites in no time at all.

Oh, and did I mention that everybody who attends gets a FREE copy of Jeremy’s fantastic new book, DOM Scripting – Web Design with JavaScript and the Document Object Model.

Hope to see you there.

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CSS Mastery - Coming Soon | December 13, 2005

As some of you may already know, I’ve spent the last 9 months writing my very first CSS book. Like most new authors, I think I heavily underestimated the shear amount of work that goes into writing a book. Consequently I’ve had little time for socialising, blogging or anything else for that matter. Luckily I’ve had some great help in putting this book together, most notably from Cameron Moll and Simon Collison for their fantastic case study chapters, and Molly Holzschlag for technical editing and general all-round support.

I’m pleased to say that as of Friday morning I sent my final chapter to production, so the book is now officially written. I got the pdf of my cover design back from the publishers this morning. I’ve made a few last minute tweaks, but essentially, if you see something that looks like this in bookstores on the 13th of February, I’d highly recommend picking up a copy.

css-mastery-big.jpg

To whet your interest, here is the blurb from the back cover.

This book is your indispensable guide to cutting-edge CSS development—all you need to work your way up to being a CSS professional.

While CSS is a relatively simple technology to learn, it is a difficult one to master. When you first start developing sites using CSS, you will come across all kinds of infuriating browser bugs and inconsistencies. It sometimes feels like there are a million and one different techniques to master, spread across a bewildering array of websites. The range of possibilities seems endless and makes for a steep and daunting learning curve.

By bringing all of the latest tips, tricks, and techniques together in one handy reference, this book demystifies the secrets of CSS and makes the journey to CSS mastery as simple and painless as possible. While most books concentrate on basic skills, this one is different, assuming that you already know the basics, and why you should be using CSS in your work, and concentrating mainly on advanced techniques.

It begins with a brief recap of CSS fundamentals such as the importance of meaningful markup, how to structure and maintain your code, and how the CSS layout model really works.

With the basics out of the way, each subsequent chapter details a particular aspect of CSS-based design. Through a series of easy-to-follow tutorials, you will learn practical CSS techniques you can immediately start using in your daily work. Browser inconsistencies are the thorn in most CSS developers’ sides, so we have dedicated two whole chapters to CSS hacks, filters, and bug fixing, as well as looking at image replacement, professional link, form, and list styling, pure CSS layouts, and much more.

All of these techniques are then put into practice in two beautifully designed case studies, written by two of the world’s best CSS designers, Simon Collison and Cameron Moll.

Coming Soon to a bookstore near you!

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Top 10 Albums I bought in 2005 | December 13, 2005

Unlike some people I know, I don’t spend a huge amount on music each year. However I thought 2004/2005 was a great year for music and I ended up buying a lot more albums than normal. Here are the top 10 albums I bought this year. They are all quite obvious and mainstream, but as it’s coming up to Christmas, I though it may give you some gift ideas.

What were your favourite albums of the year?

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More Blogging in Government | December 8, 2005

A few months ago I had the pleasure of being invited to talk to a group of civil servants on the subject of blogging in government. The talk was part of a larger event that also covered web accessibility, so myself and Tom were only really able to scratch the surface. The day was really fun, and I was surprised how interested people were in the subject. So much so, I was invited back to give an expanded talk, which I gave yesterday.

I do a lot of talking to tech savvy audiences who have already bought into the ideas I’m talking about. So it is a really nice change to talk to a group of people about an idea or concept they know little or nothing about. Most of yesterdays audience fell into that category. Everybody had heard the term “blog” and about 10 percent of the audience visited blogs on a regular basis. A few people even owned up to having a personal blog. However I believe very few people in the audience had considered using blogs as either internal or external communication tools. Demonstrated by the fact that I couldn’t find a single central government blog when researching my talk (if you know of one, please let me know).

The talk began with a bit of an overview of blogging. What blogging was, how blogging evolved and the features of a typical weblog. I then discussed the ascendance of blogging from a minority geek pursuit to an important part of the countries media culture.

I talked about how events such as 9/11, the US elections and the war on Iraq had effected the popularity of blogging in the US, and how the recent UK elections and the London tube bombings had done the same in the UK. I mentioned how people were becoming jaded with the mainstream media and increasingly turning to blogs for news, debate and the ability to hear different perspectives and opinions.

I also talked about the motivations behind blogging, and conversely why people read blogs and participate in the blogging community. I even, rather embarrassingly, had a slide titled “the ‘blogsphere’” where I discussed the size and shape of the community. Later I was asked if I knew of any research done on the number of blogs and bloggers. I didn’t, but if anybody knows of some reliable papers, please let me know.

Next, I discussed how government could use internal weblogs. I talked about how weblogs were essentially free (or very cheap), lightweight and disposable content management systems. They were easy to install, and provided search and RSS out of the box.

Many government institutions get fixated on content management systems, both internally and externally. They will run lengthy feasibility studies to work out their requirements then commission a huge, all singing all dancing system that costs a fortune and doesn’t solve the core problem of needing somebody with the necessary skills to manage the content in the first place. I honestly think some organisations think that a CMS will just sit there and manage content on its own. If only that was the case.

Instead of this, I suggested that weblogs were perfect as small, ad-hoc CMS systems. Rather than running a lengthy consultation on the viability of a new Intranet application, you could simply install some blog software and see if your idea was feasible by actually doing it. If your concept failed, you wouldn’t have wasted lots of time and money on expensive software and studies.

I talked about how weblogs were great for internal communication and a way of cutting down the huge weight of email most large companies are drowning in. I suggested that department heads could set up weblogs to communicate with staff members, or committees could use weblogs to post minutes, to-do items and the status of projects.

I also talked about how blogs could be used for internal knowledge management, by encouraging key staff to blog their collective knowledge rather than keeping it locked up. After the presentation one individual told me that his job was basically to monitor newspapers and the media and let people know what was going on via email. This was such a perfect example of how an internal weblog could be used. Rather than emailing the information, you could blog about it, and anybody who was interested could subscribe to the feed. What’s more, all this information would now be searchable.

Next, I talked about the benefits of blogging to management, and how staff blogs could help managers know what was going on in their organisation. Conversely, it would also let staff know what their manager was doing. After the talk another person said that it would be fantastic if their manager had a blog because their staff never knew where they were or what they were doing.

However the thing I was most interested in was how governments could use external blogs to connect with the people they served. An external blog could really help demystify the workings of government, while at the same time creating a sense of empathy and trust. For the ministers and departments themselves, a blog would be a great way of getting important information out to the public, unfettered by the media. If blogging became popular, editors and journalists would subscribe to government blogs so it would be a great way of getting information out to the media as well.

I can’t see it happening any time soon, but how cool would it be if the Prime Minister had a blog? You could subscribe to his RSS feed and it would really give you a window into his life. I even joked that other country leaders could subscribe to each others feeds to know what the other person was doing. How great would that be for international détente?

I finished up by discussing how government institutions should handle staff that blogged. I said that their staff would blog whether they liked it or not, and being draconian about things would just send bloggers underground. As such, I said the best option was to create a fair weblog policy that let staff know where they stood.

After I’d finished, I had quite a few people come up to talk to me about how their departments could use blogs, both internally and externally. It seemed that their was definite interest in blogging amongst the audience and it would be great if the UK government became the first to really make use of social software such as blogs. And it would be even better if the UK had the first blogging Prime Minister. I’d add that to my RSS feed. Wouldn’t you?

Anyway, if you are interested in my presentation, you can download my presentation notes as a PDF.

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Web Design and Development Trends for 2006 | December 8, 2005

The Web Standards movement has increasingly been gaining speed over the last couple of years. Once the preserve of a few high profile bloggers and evangelists, more and more developers have become wise to the benefits of meaningfully marked-up documents that separate content, presentation and behaviour.

2005 saw a rising demand for standards based developers, both from web design agencies, and remarkably also from end clients. 2005 also saw the success of @media, Europe’s first conference devoted to web standards.

I think 2006 will be the tipping point for standards based development as more and more companies come see web standards as a core part of their process.

2005 saw the birth of Ajax, a technique that uses JavaScript and the DOM to update a document without refreshing the page. This led to a renewed interest in scripting and gave rise to a new breed of highly sophisticated web applications.

The last few months of 2005 saw a huge flurry of activity, with a new high-profile web application launching almost every week. With advanced interactivity not seen before on the web, 2006 looks set to be the year of the web application.

2005 also saw the emergence of Ruby on Rails, the combination of an obscure yet elegant programming language with a rapid application development framework. Originally created by 37 Signals for their Basecamp project management tool, Rails promises unrivalled development speeds, some say as much as ten times faster than traditional methods. Rails also boasts close Ajax integration, and looks set to be the default development framework for many web 2.0 applications.

2006 is going to see Ruby on Rails development take off in a big way, with Rails developers never short of work. There will be an increasing number of hosts offering Rails support, as well as a slew of new books on the subject.

With 2006’s focus on web applications, slick user interface and interaction design is going to become even more essential. Some applications will attempt to mimic the desktop environment, and fail abysmally. Instead the trend for simple and elegant solutions will continue.

As resolutions increase in size, big fonts will dominate the first half of the year. With the success of the Firefox logo, the new breed of web 2.0 applications will choose soft, three-dimensional illustrative logos that pay homage to the icons of their desktop equivalents.

Designs will soften, with more rounded corners, pastel colours and hinted boxes. Drop shadows and gradients will remain, but in a much subtler form to avoid visual clutter. 2006 will also be a year of transparency, with a profusion of fade effects and the PNG becoming the rightful heir to the image crown.

Last, but by no means least, we will see the death of IE5.x and the birth of a new, improved Internet Explorer in the shape of IE7. With improved standards support, numerous bug fixes and native PNG transparency, IE7 will hopefully make all our jobs a lot easier.

Those are my predictions. What do you think 2006 will bring?

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