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.

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:

Bookmark icons and Apple Touch icons

The favicon has been around since 1999 as a 16 pixel square image in the .ico format. Although it can now be provided at a size of 64 pixels square, it’s function remains the same. It appears next to a web page’s page title on your browser’s tab or alongside the URL address of a web page within your browser’s bookmark system. If you don’t have a custom favicon image provided for your website, your browser will provide a default image.

This is how the favicon for this website shows up inside my copy of the Google Chrome browser:

Mapping your business

I‘ve been getting nicely revved up recently about using maps on websites – not plain old Google maps that help people plan a route to your door, but maps with multiple markers that help people visualise your business.

What does your business have that can be put on a map?

Clients, offices, properties for sale or for rent, tourist destinations, chateaux for rent, nearest airports, best bathing beaches, bars, weekly markets, schools, universities, cinemas … You get the idea. It’s anything that has longitude and latitude.

Eddie Izzard and Pingdom

There’s a magic line of comedian Eddie Izzard’s in his Glorious tour about plane safety and the top-up valve on life jackets:

… and they have these life jackets and … they’ve got a little pipe here for top-up. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want top-up. I want stays-up!

Here’s he is in a clip from YouTube. It’s about 1:07 minutes in: