Web-Development

DMNews Goes Web 2.0 – feeds, trackbacks, comments & more

June 2nd, 2006

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DMNews.com has relaunched with a new design and a new back-end, both done by us at Netconcepts. On their blog, DM News’ founder and publisher Adrian Courtenay talks about the relaunch and gives us such glowing praise that I feel myself blushing!

A few new features worth noting:

  • The entire archives have been opened up. No more passwords required!
  • Articles support both comments and trackbacks.
  • Deep links to old articles have been maintained through 301 redirects.
  • The site now offers RSS feeds. Not just one main RSS feed, but every category has an RSS feed.

DM News

June 1st, 2006

DM News screenshotDM News is the leading trade publication for direct, database and Internet marketers. It is both in print and online.

This total site revamp included user interface, look and feel, database, back-end programming, with SEO built in. The archives, with articles numbering over 25,000, is now completely open whereas previously it was restricted. Deep links to old articles have been maintained through 301 redirects.

The new site boasts a number of Web 2.0 features, including comments, trackbacks and RSS feeds. There isn’t just one main RSS feed, but every category has an RSS feed. A blog, also developed by Netconcepts, offers more informal views from DM News staffers and contributors (including this glowing testimonial of Netconcepts’ efforts by DM News’ founder Adrian Countenay).

The sophisticated content management system (CMS) that powers the site was custom-built by Netconcepts and specifically tailored to magazine publishers.

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Taking full advantage of CSS

May 30th, 2006

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CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) offers many more benefits beyond that of streamlined web pages with table-less layouts and precise positioning (no more transparent 1-pixel spacer GIFs!), mentioned in my previous post. Indeed, that’s just scratching the surface of CSS.

Here are some more clever things you can do with CSS to get your website really humming:

  • Reorder your content to sit above your top and left navigation in the HTML. That will boost the keyword prominence on your pages, which is good for SEO. Then use CSS to get the page to still display as you want. CSS Zen Garden is a great example of this in action… for example, notice how the HTML doesn’t change between this layout with left-side nav and this one with right-side nav; it’s only the CSS that’s changing.
  • If you must use graphical navigation or headings instead of text-based, then use the CSS “image replacement” technique to substitute in a text link or heading tag, respectively, when the CSS is not loaded (as is the case when the search engine spiders come to visit). For example, northland.edu uses this technique well. Currently, this is much more effective for SEO than Alt attributes.

    Many of the image replacement techniques physically move the text off the screen (text-indent: -9999em; left:-9999em;display:none, etc). This isn’t desirable as search engines are starting to examine external CSS files more closely to look for spam. There are a few image replacement techniques that don’t do this type of hiding and are still accessible, namely The Leahy/Langridge Method, The Gilder/Levin Method and The “Shea Enhancement”. Each of these methods have their pluses and minuses, which the Mezzoblue article outlines quite well. (Thanks to our CSS guru Darren for this last bit of advice.)

  • Learn to code in “CSS shorthand.” With shorthand, hex codes for colors, margins, box dimensions and borders can all be abbreviated, for instance. More about this here. The efficiency of CSS shorthand translates into not only a speedier download for your customers, but also compact and tidy code that’s easier to maintain.
  • Make code that “degrades gracefully” (or, as they prefer to say now in geek circles, “enhances progressively”). Creating a separate “low-bandwidth version” or “printer friendly version” or “mobile version” of your site will sound ludicrous in years to come (heck, I think it sounds ludicrous NOW!), because CSS makes such a thing unnecessary. Check out how gracefully gotomedia.com degrades on a cell phone or PDA, for instance.
  • Correct for browser incompatibility snafus with browser-specific CSS. Does something look awry in your page layout when loading your site with the Safari browser, for instance? Internet Explorer doesn’t always play nice with the other browsers. Until the days where all the browsers follow all the same standards to the letter, browser-specific stylesheets are a useful crutch.
  • Separate the presentation layer from the content layer as much as possible and move it into an external stylesheet (in other words, a separate .CSS file). That way it gets cached by the web browser and doesn’t have to reload with each new page.
  • Plan for site-wide changes. Things change — colors, sidebars, ads, copyright dates, etc. Utilize CSS files and/or server-side includes to make future site-wide updates as painless as possible.
  • Make use of the cascading nature of CSS. Most of the styles you define will be used site-wide. Some will only be for one particular page. Then there will be occasions where you’ll want to “cascade” styles, and have certain sections of your site adopt a particular look/layout/theme that overrides or branches off from the site-wide styles. Clever use of cascading styles can lead to very efficient and elegant code.

    Warning! Geek speek ahead:

  • Be careful of overriding previously declared statements. And also be aware that specificity is important in the cascade. Declare all your tag styles first then declare your id and class selectors down the doc. That way the cascade works and can be overwritten with new selectors. (Thanks again to our CSS guru Darren for this last bit of advice.)

CSS coders: the Web Developer Firefox extension is an awesome tool for coding, debugging, and tweaking style sheets. You can display the stylesheet and the rendered page simultaneously side-by-side and then interactively edit the CSS, immediately viewing the effect of the change on the rendered page. And it makes identifying errors (be they validation, CSS, or JavaScript) a piece-of-cake. Did I mention the plugin is free? 🙂

Blogs and banners power travel agency website: House of Travel’s new site proves a hit

May 22nd, 2006

Originally published in Computerworld

Twelve months after its website redesign, House of Travel saw its onsite sales grow six-fold – results that can be measured in increased traffic to the site and in keyword ranking.

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School Kids Healthcare

May 20th, 2006

School Kids Health Care screenshotSchool Kids Healthcare offers a complete line of school nurse supplies and school nurse equipment to help school nurses fulfill their mission.

The company came to Netconcepts to establish a complete ebusiness presence. The site we created for them offers more than great nursing supplies and equipment. It offers the latest school kids news and a separate nursing blog, authored by a local school nurse.

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Visit the site: School Kids Healthcare

E-commerce consultancy service vital to their success

TRUSTcite Logo“As a new venture, it was vitally important that clear outcomes and costs were identified and monitored. This is something I found Netconcepts to be excellent at…”

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DesignTalk

January 23rd, 2006

Design Talk screenshotHomeVisions is a brand of DMSI (Direct Marketing Services Inc.). If you are not familiar with HomeVisions, you might be familiar with some of DMSI’s other brands, including Montgomery Wards.

DesignTalk is a retail blog that strives to educate and add value on the topic of interior design and home decor. The blog is chock full of creative ideas and tips for home decorating organized in many ways, including by room and by application. The blog encourages you to ask a question which could be answered as a blog post, as well as posting a comment. The blog includes a newsletter and, of course, an RSS feed.

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Visit The Site: DesignTalk

Tools For Less

November 21st, 2005

Tools For Less screenshotTools For Less, as the name implies, sells power tools and equipment at discount prices through their online catalog. The ecommerce site developed by Netconcepts is full-featured, with extensive functionality in the back-end administrative interface, and with a clean intuitive user experience for customers.

Among the additional out-of-the-ordinary features offered to customers is a Wish List capability which is integrated throughout the site and is as simple to use as the shopping cart itself.

The site is built search engine friendly, of course, with static looking URLs, unique keyword rich title tags, and more.

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Visit The Site: Tools For Less

Website builders now better by design

October 19th, 2005

Originally published in New Zealand Herald

Web design is more than just the design of a site. President of Netconcepts, Stephan Spencer told the New Zealand Herald that sites need to be designed with SEO in mind and where keywords, category listing, search engine optimization and navigation are essential ingredients, along with site support and monitoring services.

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ShopperANSWERS

August 12th, 2005

ShopperANSWERS screenshotShopperANSWERS offers a retail marketing and measurement solution that helps retailers keep informed of shopper behavior at the moment of purchase across a wide variety of retail outlets. Their corporate website gives an insight into the minds of shoppers. The site isn’t just marketing fluff; it educates the visitor on such topics as observational research and intercept interviews.

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Visit The Site: ShoppersAnswers