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Keeping clients up to date with responsive roll-outs

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Before and After: Pottingshed Holidays

Having a site that works responsively on all major devices and platforms has become essential for usability and SEO - and we’ve been helping some of our clients with updates to their sites.

Two recent examples of updates were for two long-standing clients in the accommodation sector.

Potting Shed Holidays and Pear Tree Cottages have both benefited from the move to responsive layout, with modern, content-managed websites now displaying seamlessly on mobile devices as well as having a number of usability improvements and a fresh new look.

With more than 50% of web visits now carried out on mobile devices, updating your old site to responsive has become imperative.

To find out how you can make your site responsive in a way that fits your budget, get in touch with us at info@tickboxmarketing.co.uk

Public Sector Business Engagement Benefits to the Local Community

When I saw a tweet adverting a local event: Local by Social (Apps for Communities) I instantly knew this was something not to be missed.  As a business you can’t fail to notice that times are a changing, the economic landscape is almost unrecognisable in a relatively short period of time.  For some businesses it has been like sailing a choppy sea, battening down the hatches and weathering a fiscal storm.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Isn’t this a time to seek out new opportunities a bit closer to home?

Putting ideology to one side, Government has tried to argue that it’s time for business and the community to work together, the obvious area is where the public sector is withdrawing its investment.

The Regional Growth Fund has been set up to seek out and invest  in “private sector employment in regions where there is an imbalance with the public sector” and “to build up the private sector in the long term.”   For the RGF bid I was involved in that meant an opportunity for a solid public/private partnership with an “oven-ready” business model and vision to get investment.

To benefit from a substantial RGF grant, sustainability and providing wider benefits  such as job creation, new skills training and encouraging new business start up, were key words with real meaning rather than buzz words.

Local by Social seem to sing the same tune as RGF.   During this two day open forum, we were asked to consider how can technology solve everyday problems and develop ideas, there was even a cash prize for the best App idea.   Essentially we were asked to look at Apps in a different way ie consider the wider benefits to the community.

One example given was an app developed by local Bristol company Overlay Media.   The “Hills are Evil“  App has a very practical purpose, “the creation of a dynamic map overlay that provides people with restricted mobility, cyclists, skateboarders, the elderly, and people pushing pushchairs, the ability to identify the most appropriate route between two places.”  They’ve made this app “fun” by providing “a pain scale to make levels of steepness more meaningful to users, as the raw numbers of distance, ascent and descent are not conducive to the best user experience”.

Users can upload their accessibility issues, such as unexpected drop curbs, troublesome cobbles and steep hills “that kill” and this data can be used to improve people’s lives not just by taking the pain out of not being able to get to your destination, but also by feeding back to say those who make decisions about where to spend money on roads and pavements.  One Councillor said that money was already being spent on consultation with the public on accessibility issues, but with this app that could mean such consultations would not neccesarily be required.  A win win and cost saving.

Hills are Evil was commissioned by Media Sandbox – a project that invests in smaller and local creative technology companies to  develop inspirational ideas and projects that have an emphasis on community.  So I guess I’m getting around to the idea of Social Enterprise.  The reason Hills are Evil is so good is that innovation and “inspirational ideas” came from investment in the right people for the right reasons.  At the same time these savvy technological social entrepreneurs get their idea off the ground.

The ambition for Hills are Evil’s concept is to be as ubiquitous as Google Maps, yes this makes sense, but wouldn’t that start to attract the attention of  business investors?

Social by Local was missing something for me and that was any mention of Enterprise.  Businesses looking to adapt to the changing economic landscape and seek opportunities by working with the public sector can lead to benefits to the local community.   Local by Social was an ideal forum for this discussion, making us think of Apps and technology in a way that has wider benefit to society, I see also an opportunity for business as well, but there wasn’t many of us (business investors) there to share our ideas.

Businesses are often seen as totally separate to the local community by the public sector, even though we often live and work in the very same community.   Social by Local needs to engage with the local business community as should Local Government.   The RGF initiative kind of forced this into being by providing an investment opportunity aimed at businesses but wrapped up in the language of the public sector.  There needed to be public/private partnership to understand the application form at the very least!   We have firsthand experience of three local authorities that find engaging with the business community challenging, maybe this was why only 400 bids were submitted to the RGF fund, when 6000 were predicted.

What do you think everyone will be using (online) and talking about in 2011?

“What do you think will be big online in the New Year? Will Twitter be the new Facebook? Or will a new service emerge and capture our attention? What will the new hot gadget be? Will everyone replace their laptops with the newest smart phones and tablets, or will a different gadget enter the market? What do you think everyone will be using and talking about in 2011?”

I welcome the continuing shift in thinking and understanding of social media. In 2011, it will be not so much about the “social media stars” and gurus, who tell us how it all “works”, but more about what social media enables.

The focus on technology for technology’s sake is losing the battle and emerging, via the democratisation of technology  (and with the ability users have to leapfrog technological developments) is the means to produce community-based, demand-led ideas and uses of the technology that benefit people.

This was demonstrated brilliantly at the Connecting Bristol showcase event I attended this week at the Watershed.  We were given an update on the projects that Connecting Bristol had helped flourish.

Knowle Media West and Pervasive Media talked about what they do.  Connecting Bristol stayed firmly in the background, while we learnt about local community projects,  including accessible technology training that was really changing lives for the better, giving individuals a voice, opening up new possibilities for people, increasing confidence.  An example was given of how a group of OAPs saved their vital  lifeline – a bus route on their estate – because they simply had a voice and technology enabled them to be heard.

We saw work that the space and ethos at the Pervasive Media Studio had helped to produce, simply by enabling a cluster of creative technologists and giving them a space to grow their ideas, see Antivj for instance and read about the work of Dan Dixon.

The conversations and arguments about technology platforms will become less relevant, we won’t be hearing so much excitement around choosing a  technology platform (Bristol City Council), but more on how the online facilities enabled Bristol City Council to meet the challenge of doing more for less (money) for its people in supporting local communities with its services.

Knowing that the head of Bristol City Council spent 2 hours at the Connecting Bristol’s event, on the day she was going to hear news on her shrinking budget, tells you that Bristol City Council does get the point really.

One speaker mentioned that he asked a taxi driver on his way to the Watershed if they had heard of Connecting Bristol, the taxi driver hadn’t.  Not quite the correct question I believe, I’m sure if he had asked the taxi driver if he had heard of Knowle West Media Centre and/or Pervasive Media Studio, he may have heard something quite different.

What do you think will be big online in the 2011?

In response to a question posed by Connecting Somerset:

“What do you think will be big online in the New Year? Will Twitter be the new Facebook? Or will a new service emerge and capture our attention? What will the new hot gadget be? Will everyone replace their laptops with the newest smart phones and tablets, or will a different gadget enter the market? What do you think everyone will be using and talking about in 2011?”

Social Media in 2011

Social media will become increasingly relevant, changing the way we work, learn and play, as David Cushman says “2011 is going to be the year when making/creating/doing with social media begins to gain the ascendency over messaging/using people as a channel.”. More social media services will launch, to clutter the ever busier bar of buttons beneath blog articles. The best will have to fight to stay relevant. Expect to see more location-based services too, like FourSquare.

Browsers and HTML5 in 2011

Image credit: John Martz @ RobotJohnny.com

The new browser wars (browser war 2.0?) will see additions of new features from HTML5 into the offerings from Google, Apple and Firefox, each vying for the title ‘most up-to-date’. The real battle will be over performance, with the web using evermore Javascript even Microsoft’s Internet Explorer will be going on a diet, with the release of its Internet Explorer 9. All of this will be great for users with a faster, more stable web experience.

iPad, Tablets and Beyond in 2011

The iPad has been one of the hottest gadgets of 2010, with 8.5 million sold since its launch in April. 2011 will see a lot of manufacturers releasing their own versions, but with a new, cheaper model expected to be released by Apple in early 2011 it’ll be interesting to see who ships more units. The key here is that the competition will mean better features, and lower prices for the consumer.

We may even see an entirely new type of device with manufacturers exploring new designs and functionality, such as the Dell Inspiron Duo with its innovative flip screen leading to a device which is both a laptop, and a tablet. I expect we’ll see other creative solutions to fill the entire spectrum between a laptop and a tablet in the coming year, and an increased muddying of the distinction between smartphones, tablets, netbooks, and notebooks.

Global Browser Usage Analysed

All graphs from Stat Counter’s fantastic tool.

Although not the most exciting topic, analysis of browser usage isn’t purely academic, it is not only important to web designers and developers, who have to ensure their websites work for as many people as possible. The trends make a big difference to how everybody uses the web. Changes in browser technologies to embrace emerging technologies mean that to make the most of the web that older, legacy browsers need to be abandoned.

It can be a “chicken or the egg” situation, web designers can’t use new technologies until most browsers can support them, and users often won’t update unless there is functionality they are missing out on, due to having an old browser, HTML5 being a good example.

Google Chrome

With major version releases (3.0, 4.0, 5.0) every 3 or 4 months Google Chrome is a rapidly developing, cutting-edge browser, featuring the latest in browser features, rendering engine technology and Javascript acceleration.

With each new version almost all users are updated within a month. Google Chrome automatically downloads and installs updates if they are available, a feature which is rather hard to turn off. This does have the advantage that users of Google Chrome will always be using the most up-to-date version of the browser available, with bugs and security holes constantly fixed. It will also mean that the user will have the richest web experience available to them; if Google Chrome provides the feature they will have access to it.

Interesting in this trend is version inflection, whereby the relationship between the new version and outgoing version is almost a mirror image, reflected in the plane between the axis and the total browser usage trend (see light blue line).

The overall trend (pink line) is that Google Chrome is increasing its user base at a steady rate, with usage more than doubling in less than a year (3.86% Oct 2009 – 10.02% Aug 2010). Unsurprising considering Google has access to 91.4 % of the search engine users and a unique market position to get its browser to people.

Mozilla Firefox

Firefox has longer release cycles, often with minor revisions between major releases (3.5.13, 3.6.10). Updates are not automatic, although the user is prompted to update, either by updating directly in-browser, or by being linked to download a new version, as happened with 3.5. This means uptake of new versions is slower, taking 3 or 4 months for usage to surpass that of the previous version.

The version inflection of Firefox is a more complex, in large part due to FF 3.0, 3.5 and 3.6 all having significant usage until recently. There is a clear inflection trend between FF 3.0 and FF 3.5, until the release of FF 3.6. At this point there is a clear inflection trend between FF 3.5 and FF 3.6.

The overall trend for Firefox is that the browser is gaining no ground, with uptake pretty much level.

Internet Explorer

By comparison Internet Explorer (IE) release cycles are practically glacial. Internet Explorer 6, the lowest version number still with significant usage, was released in August 2001, with IE 7 released over 5 years later (October 2006), and, the current most popular, IE 8 some 2.5 years after that (March 2009).

While it has often been pointed out that IE 6 just won’t die, due mainly to its use by so many large businesses and public sector organisations, it is quite remarkable, and frustrating, that IE 6 still has such high usage after 9 years! The main problem here is that with so long between IE 6 and IE 7 (5 years), and one of the biggest uptakes in business usage of computers, that a lot of intranet websites were built to be viewed through IE 6. This in addition to the fact that IE 6 is not standards compliant means that any update to a browser that would display these systems ‘properly’ would in fact break the pages. In addition to IT departments simply not wanting to take on the risk, and headaches, of upgrading browsers across large networks. With Microsoft continuing support for IE 6 until April 8 2014, it’s not going to go away for some time yet.

Internet Explorer’s version inflection seems to indicate direct replacement of IE 7 for IE 8. Internet Explorer 6 abandonment doesn’t seem to play a large part in the rise of IE 8, suggesting that those users are moving to other browsers, perhaps due to running pirated version of Windows XP, preventing them from updating to IE7 or 8. These users would instead move to Google Chrome, Firefox or Safari for Windows.

Overall

Although IE 6 and 7 are (slowly) on their way out, being largely replaced by IE, it would seem that a significant part of users of IE are defecting to Google Chrome and Safari, the latter’s rise being related to the uptake of iPhones, iTouches and iPads, which all use a version of the Safari web browser.

Overall Firefox usage has levelled out, hovering around 30% of all browsers. It would seem that this has come about with the appearance of Google Chrome on the scene. Firefox users have traditionally been a more tech savvy group, who’s defection from security-flaw ridden Internet Explorer fueled Firefox’s rise until mid-2008 with Google Chrome’s release. These users will be more aware of the advantages of lightweight, and fast, Chrome, and feel less emotionally invested in any browser in particular.

The abandonment of Internet Explorer for Chrome isn’t surprising, a large number of these users will be less computer savvy, one reason they have stayed with IE up until now. With the ‘buzz’ about a browser from big name Google, as well as Google’s unique market position, which provides a way of leveraging the comes-installed IE browser off the default browser spot on Windows computers.

Disclaimer 1: I am a Firefox user, in large part due to its invaluable developer tools and add-ons, in addition to being one of the best browsers for my operating system, Ubuntu Linux. I am also, inherent in being a web designer/developer, an opponent of Internet Explorer.

Disclaimer 2: Browser usage, or indeed any web usage stats, are by no means precise. They will vary based on audience (Wired.com vs. The National Trust), geographical region (country to country, or even region of the same country), and time of day (work vs. home computer). In addition some browser will ‘spoof’ their user agent and report to be something which they are not.