Adapting an Interface for Touch Devices

The talk of late when it comes to adapting a web application for a mobile platform has been all about CSS media queries or server-side detection. But, as Tim shows, those two techniques alone are insufficient to account for the full range of devices out there, and their specific interface requirements.




Laying the Foundations of SEO Success

SEO is seen by many web developers and designers as a black art. However, there are a number of clear steps and actions that any site owner or developer can take to ensure their sites receive a fair shake in the search rankings. Once that foundation has been laid, it’s possible to engage in a few simple strategies to extend your search visibility even further. In this article, Mike will show you how to build that foundation, and then use it as the starting point for your SEO strategy.




What’s Your Real Broadband Speed?

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UK telecommunications firm BT was recently slammed by the Advertising Standards Authority for misleading broadband speed advertisements. BT’s television advert stated the company was “rolling out up to 20 meg speeds” to give “consistently faster broadband” yet they could not provide sufficient evidence to support the claims. In a similar case in Australia, regulators accused Optus of breaching the Trade Practices Act by misleading customers with its “Supersonic” and “Think Bigger” broadband plans.

Unless you happen to be living in South Korea, broadband speeds can be disappointing. Service providers make bold statements but, examine the small print, and you’ll discover that few people can achieve the advertised speeds.

Western countries often have the slowest broadband connections. Few companies invest in modern communication infrastructures when it’s easier and more profitable to push aging copper networks to their limits. The Speedtest.net global report shows the US in 30th place followed by the UK at 33, Canada at 36, and Australia at 40. The average speeds are dwarfed by those available in Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Bulgaria.

The average UK download speed is 9.18Mb/s yet many people receive far less. For the record, I can achieve 2.7Mb/s and households a short walk away are even slower. It’s fine for watching a YouTube video, uploading SitePoint articles and sending tweets, but large downloads are painful and it’s no where near the “up to” 20Mb speed advertised by my ISP.

For the latest SitePoint poll, I’d like to know how your actual broadband speed measures against your provider’s advertised figure…

  • Measure your actual broadband speed at an independent site such as Speedtest.net.
  • Visit your ISP’s website to find their advertised broadband speed.
  • Divide the first number by the second and complete the SitePoint poll.

For me, it’s 2.7 ⁄ 20 = 0.135. It’s like buying a Ferrari to find it’s been limited to 30mph. How does your provider compare?

OAuth for PHP Twitter Apps, Part 2

Twitter recently turned off basic HTTP authentication for its API. This means that Twitter app developers now need to use OAuth to access Twitter. In this second tutorial of a two-part series, Raj shows you how to let users log in to your site using Twitter’s “Sign in with Twitter” authentication technique.




3 Ways to Leverage Social Interactions in Your SEO Campaigns

Social media is an increasingly important weapon in any SEO professional’s arsenal, but there are pitfalls to avoid if you plan to make use of it. SitePoint’s SEO expert Kristen Holden walks you through three simple ways to start gaining SEO benefit from your visitors’ social interactions.




IE Market Share Falls Below 50%

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In August 2010, Google Chrome exceeded 10% market share. Another milestone was achieved in September: Internet Explorer’s total usage dropped below 50% for the first time in over a decade.

There have been cheers throughout the web design and development community and the story has spread throughout the technical and mainstream press. However, it’s worth examining the StatCounter statistics in detail…

BrowserAugustSeptemberchangerelative
IE 9.0 beta0.00%0.09%+0.09%n/a
IE 8.029.40%29.38%-0.02%-0.10%
IE 7.013.91%12.98%-0.93%-6.70%
IE 6.08.02%7.42%-0.60%-7.50%
Firefox 4.0 beta0.00%0.26%+0.26%n/a
Firefox 3.5+28.03%28.33%+0.30%+1.10%
Firefox 3.0+2.60%2.48%-0.12%-4.60%
Chrome10.76%11.52%+0.76%+7.10%
Safari4.06%4.22%+0.16%+3.90%
Opera1.88%2.03%+0.15%+8.00%
Others1.34%1.38%+0.04%+3.00%
IE (all)51.33%49.87%-1.46%-2.80%
Firefox (all)30.63%31.07%+0.44%+1.40%

The ‘change’ column shows the absolute increase or decrease in market share. The ‘relative’ column indicates relative movements, i.e. 7.5% of IE6 users switched browser in the past month.

We can’t make too many assumptions from this data, but there’s one statistic reporters appear to have missed: IE8 usage has barely changed. The 0.02% drop is more than outweighed by the 0.09% gained by the IE9 beta release.

The most significant contributory factor for IE losses is migration from versions 6 and 7. Although a proportion of those users will have moved to IE8/9, a greater percentage has switched to an alternative such as Firefox or Chrome. There are several reasons why this has occurred:

  • IE8 is a capable browser but there are plenty of better options for IE6/7 users.
  • Good web applications are browser-agnostic or work on a variety of platforms. Legacy business applications are being updated and there’s less dependency on IE.
  • Microsoft and all other major vendors are backing HTML5. The rendering differences between browsers is smaller than ever and it rarely matters which application you use.
  • The majority of businesses use Windows XP and may have no intention of upgrading — especially during continued economic uncertainty. Yet IE9 is only available on Windows Vista/7. Why would a business continue to use an application which the vendor has (effectively) abandoned? It’s far cheaper and easier to install an alternative browser than upgrade the OS.

While we should be thankful for the drop in IE6/7 usage, 1 in 5 visitors continue to use the ancient browsers. Predictions of IE’s demise are premature and IE8 remains the world’s most-used browser.

It’s better news for the other vendors. Firefox, Safari and Opera all gained but Chrome remains the biggest winner. Google’s browser increases by nearly 1% every month and shows no sign of peaking. However, it’s about to face a stronger challenge from Firefox 4 and IE9.

Goo.gl URL Shortener Released

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There are more URL shortening services than URLs to shorten*. TinyURL launched in 2002, but Twitter’s 140 character limit led to dozens of alternatives including bit.ly, is.gd, snipurl.com, Tweak and the utterly absurd urlshorteningservicefortwitter.com

Do we need another? Google thinks so and has publicly launched goo.gl. The service has been integrated with other Google applications since December 2009 but it’s now open to everyone.

Goo.gl has a major advantage over the other options: it’s backed by a company which is unlikely to cease trading any time soon. As tr.im users are only too aware, a closed service leads to linkrot — all your shortened URLs disappear in a puff of electronic smoke. As a business model, URL shortening requires huge resources and makes little money.

As well as stability, Google also claims security and speed. Spam links are automatically removed, up-time is excellent, and you’ll rarely encounter a slow response.

Statistics fans will also love the reports. I created this link for SitePoint.com — goo.gl/Qm9S. Click it and you’ll see your data instantly appear at goo.gl/info/Qm9S.

Still not convinced? How about automated QR code generation? Simply add .qr to the shortened URL to view the image, i.e. goo.gl/Qm9S.qr. Rather than entering a web address, a smartphone user can scan this image and be forwarded to the SitePoint home page.

Whatever your opinion of Google’s ambitions or URL shortening as a concept, it’s difficult to deny the benefits of goo.gl. Rival services will certainly suffer, but it’s not as though they had a viable business in the first place.

Will you switch to goo.gl? Do you know of a service offering better facilities? Is URL shortening swamping the web with unnecessary HTTP redirects?

* Obviously, that can’t be true but you get the point!