Web Development

The glamorous world of web development

In films, advanced computer users often spend their development time spinning round in their chairs, cracking their knuckles, doing handstands and other things aimed at, I don’t know, increasing blood flow or something (yes Swordfish I’m talking about you).

The reality is somewhat different, or course; certainly in our office. Here, a 30-minute spell of advanced development is compressed into 90 seconds, and the cookie-eating and conversations with the rest of the team (both in the office and remotely via Skype) are revealed.

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011 eBusiness, Technology, Web Development 3 Comments

Import movies into your Netflix queue

So this post is a little different from the usual – think of it as market research.  I have it in mind to write a little app that lets you import a load of titles into your Netflix queue.  So if you have a subscription with, say, Blockbuster and you want to give Netflix a try, you could easily add the movies from your Blockbuster queue into your Netflix queue.

So the question is: is this worth doing?  Would people actually use it?

If you would, leave a comment.  If 50 people say ‘Yes’, then I’ll get started…

Monday, January 24th, 2011 eBusiness, Web Development 10 Comments

Firefox overtakes IE, but Chrome is the big winner

REVISITED: You can see whether my predictions came true by reading this post.

I see on StatCounter that Firefox has overtaken Internet Explorer as the most-used browser in Europe.  That must be the first time IE has lost the top spot since it first overtook Netscape in the mid-Nineties.  However Firefox has not increased its user base; the reason for IE’s decline is that it has lost market share to Google Chrome.

In fact, Firefox has also lost 2.5% of the market, and IE a whopping 7.5%, while Chrome has gained pretty much the full 10% that they lost between them.  Other browsers, such as Opera and Safari, have remained fairly static (although Safari, installed mainly on Macs, did gain 1% of the market, which is impressive given that it started with just 3.5%).

It will be interesting to see if these trends continue; according to my rough projections, Chrome is on course to overtake IE in the middle of 2012 and will become the most dominant browser in Europe in Early 2013.

I think that the reasons for the shift are threefold:

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Wednesday, January 5th, 2011 Technology, Web Development 2 Comments

An elegant regular expression for finding URLs

so you can turn them into hyperlinks automatically…

A while ago I needed to write some code which would automatically recognise a URL in plain text, and turn it into a hyperlink.  Being a lazy sort, I turned to Google, and found this article on DevX.  The regular expression it gave there was not perfect, but worked reasonably well:


At the time, I was sufficiently rushed off my feet that I forgave its flaws and implemented it.  Over time, however, it’s been bugging me, and as the service it’s implemented on gets more traffic, so the need to improve it has become greater.  And so it came to pass that this evening I bit the bullet and tried to write a better one.  After a couple of hours of testing various permutations, here it is (after the jump):

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Thursday, January 21st, 2010 Web Development No Comments

How websites reward ambition

In a nutshell: Because they scale really nicely.

This was brought home to me recently when I was drawing up a proposal for a client who plans to set up a new business networking group, or more accurately, a network of networking groups.  Our M.O. involves a lot of upfront business analysis, so it was clear that the optimum solution involved much more than a simple website with some card payments for bookings.

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Wednesday, November 18th, 2009 eBusiness, Technology, Web Development No Comments

Article: Web Primer – Mistakes, I’ve made a few…

When I was four years old, I watched an older friend fix his bike.  He had it upside-down, the seat and handlebars forming a makeshift tripod.  Having reattached the chain, he turned the pedals by hand, causing the back wheel to spin rapidly.  It looked like fun, so I had a go, but somehow the middle finder of my right hand got caught in the chain, and the sprockets on the back wheel tore the end of the finger clean off.

Some things you learn the hard way.

As a web developer with nearly ten years experience – quite a lot in such an immature industry – I have made a number of mistakes, and learnt from other people’s.  I’d like to share the most common of those mistakes with you now, because if your site still makes them, you are handicapping yourself unnecessarily.

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Friday, December 5th, 2008 Published Elsewhere, Web Development 2 Comments

Article: Web Primer – Keeping It Current

In my previous article, I mentioned a number of things that search engines look for when deciding where to rank your website among the other results.  In general, the things that make your site attractive to search engines are the same things that will make your site appeal to human visitors too.

This is probably most obvious when you look at how often a website is updated.  Search engines will give more weight to a site which is updated regularly, on the grounds that newer content is more likely to be relevant.  Your potential customers will probably make a similar judgement; a site which contains obviously out-of-date content – such as details of events which happened months ago –  can do you more harm than good.

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Monday, November 24th, 2008 Published Elsewhere, Web Development No Comments

Article: Web Primer – Search Engine Optimisation

The question I am most commonly asked, by about a mile and a half, is “How can I make my website do better on search engines?”  A short question, but the answers are many and varied.  A simpler question to start with is “What do search engines look for in a site?”  As you will see, the answers to question one all stem from the answer to question two.

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Monday, November 17th, 2008 Published Elsewhere, Web Development No Comments

Article: Web Primer – Domain Names

Your website has just gone live.  You have tweaked every word to ensure that it communicates your message clearly and powerfully.  The HTML is perfectly coded so that search engines have the best chance of sending your site to the top of their listings.  The design is beautiful and elegant, and having had it tested on countless computers you are sure that it will look great on any screen.  Your web developer deserves a pat on the back, and so do you for hiring someone so competent.

However, it is quite possible that a decision you made weeks, months or even years ago will have a big impact on the success of your website, and certainly on the speed of its growth.  Choosing the right domain name (the bit that comes after ‘www’, so prominentmedia.com or google.co.uk for example) is incredibly important.  As a professional web developer, I am only occasionally asked for to advise on domain name selection, which is a shame because in many cases I could help my clients pick a domain name which makes growing their website even easier.

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Monday, November 10th, 2008 Published Elsewhere, Web Development No Comments

Article: Seven reasons to avoid JavaScript dynamic navigation

I’ve been a web developer for over eight years, and in that time I’ve been fortunate enough to see several bad ideas go out of fashion, including splash screens and unnecessary framesets.  However, one really bad idea that seems to be hanging around is the use of JavaScript for dynamic navigation menus.  This is bad for several reasons – seven of the most obvious of which are listed after the jump:

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Monday, November 3rd, 2008 Published Elsewhere, Web Development No Comments