Rob Tomlinson's blog

These posts are on a broad range of topics – mostly about web design and development — but off-topic posts are scattered 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 on the Search Engine Land website.

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.

Watermarks and brand recognition

Another of the many splendours that is Drupal is the ImageCache module. This provides you with the ability to configure a basketload of image-processing actions. The most obvious of these is to size, crop and scale images, so that clients have automated processing associated with virtually any of the images that they may wish to upload to their website.

Overlaying your logo as a watermark image

A new class of image-processing I’ve started to add to the bundle is the provision of a watermark. This takes a specific image such as a logo and overlays it onto another image.

Low page ranking and high bounce rates

The web is awash with information about how to achieve a high page rank in Google, some of it excellent, some of it not. It’s usually expressed in terms of what needs to be done. This article takes the opposite approach by explaining a few points that should be avoided, based upon long experience I’ve had working with a range of great clients.

Characters dangling in space

The devil is so often in the detail and this is especially true when you combine French punctuation, HTML and responsive websites where text flows within fluid layouts and line length is something that I can no longer control.

This problem doesn’t arise with English language websites, but with French websites it can provoke an itch that’s difficult to satisfy!

In French, there is supposed to be a space both before and after the following punctuation marks: