Rob Tomlinson's blog

Attitude, experience and sounding-off are filed-away here in various combinations. Topics range from the technical (web design), to the commercial (being a freelancer), to the nifty (great software to use) as well as the annoying and delighting. The opinions expressed here are unashamedly mine.

Interactivity that supports content

Here’s an example of how complexity beneath the surface of a web page looks as natural and intuitive as you can get. It concerns maps, menus and information. You can see the interface I’m describing on this website on this page (new tab/window). Check it out then return here for the rest of this article.

A map menu and a text menu

We begin with the basic idea that we have a set of data. In this instance, the data is a small collection of pages about geographical places. We can plot these on a map with each place being represented with its own marker on that map.

No Man is an Island

With my fellow Brits voting collectively to leave the EU, these words written in 1624 come to mind:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

The long scroll

When did you last visit a website whose home page was based on a long scroll design? Probably only yesterday is my guess. There’s a lot of them about.

Viral content and long term lift - an example

The adage that ‘Content is king’ is not only true, but works in surprising ways. This post is about the intended consequences of good content which, when they come, surprise us. That apparent contradiction is deliberate, so read on.

But what is good content?

‘Good content’, I keep explaining to clients, is not always content that you’d like to have on your website. It is content that people are looking for - and maybe can’t find easily elsewhere. By definition, good content is useful, maybe even authoritative.

Rural business line repaired in less than 8 hours

This week a tractor collided with a post delivering our telephones lines, tearing the cable and leaving us stranded. The guy who did it was cutting the verges and banks in our commune, a service he performs three times a year (early-spring, mid-summer and late-autumn). This is the second time he’s taken out our line, so by definition he’s now a recidivist!

For those of you living, like us, in deeply rural France, you know what this means. It’s separation from the modern world, no telephone, no internet. One is expelled for a while to the dark side of Pluto.

Flash flushed

At last and after a long wait, the horror that is Adobe Flash may be one step closer to being terminated. The good folks over at Mozilla, they who develop the venerable Firefox browser, have been blocking Flash-based content from running in Adobe’s Flash plugin for ages. If you want to view Flash animations or video in Firefox, you must accept a warning that Flash is known to be vulnerable. This isn’t news. What is news is that Facebook is now proposing that Adobe now kills Flash off. Hurray! Let’s hope it happens.

Choosing a website's hosting

One of the most discerning decisions a website designer has to take is where to host a client’s website. Cheapest is certainly not best because it ignores other crucial factors such as server speed, backup, security, reliability and customer service. Finding a hosting company where the balance of all these factors favour the client can be tricky.

I’m possibly an exception amongst website designers in that I ask my clients to buy their own hosting. This enables them to retain control of their site and take their business elsewhere if that’s what they prefer. Few have actually done that, but I don’t want to tie people’s hands.

Know your tables

Occasionally I land on a website that really grabs me. It may be on a subject that doesn’t interest me or it may be on one where I have a special interest. The common factor is usually that the presentation is compelling.

Here’s one such example. It’s on SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), a subject that’s plumb centre of the work I do, but which can be dry and difficult because of it technical nature. What the people at Search Engine Land have done is to depict the different factors that make up current SEO practice in the form of The Periodic Table. You can check it out here.

The need for speed

The speed with which a web page loads is a major factor in how well your business will perform on-line. People don’t have time to hang around and wait, so all avenues for reducing page load time are ones that must be explored.

April 9th 2010 was the date when this officially also became a matter of SEO because that was the date when Google announced that site speed would be a new signal in their search ranking algorithms. If you’re web designer isn’t on top of this, you might be missing out.

A possible speed-up for French rural broadband?

We happen to pay a high price for living in a pretty, rural location. Our broadband speed maxes out at just under 512Kbps. That’s 0.5Mbps a second. In 2014, that’s a very high price – and we pay it to Orange. If you’re in the same boat, this may interest you.

We’re used to having narrow-band internet. Something faster has always been promised, but it hasn’t yet arrived. The latest news is that fibre optic is slowly creeping towards us, but it may be next year – or 2016 – before we are connected to it. We’ve been tempted by satellite broadband, but not enough to shell out for it. Living in a valley precludes us from accessing WiMAX.