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February 2012


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Pinterest? What is it?

Pinterest? What is it?

I’ve been reading about Pinterest for a while now, but hadn’t really taken too much notice, a bit like FourSquare it seemed to mainly attract the US audience.

It was one article in particular I read a few weeks back regarding Pinterest that really caught my attention. It was an infographic displaying the difference between US and UK users. In the US over 80% of users are female and the top categories are weddings and interior design. In the UK it’s a more even split with just over 55% of users being male and the top categories are things like SEO and technology. 

Not surprisingly this caught my attention…so I signed up for my invite which duly arrived within a few hours. I signed up through my Facebook account and started to browse through the many categories. Now I like browsing on sites, I like clicking links from Facebook to something my friends have read or watched or a piece posted by a journalist on Twitter. So Pinterest is right up my street.

Some people may think this is just another Digg or StumbleUpon – which to be fair, it kind of is. To me this is a site where all my bookmarks can be kept in one place with a nice image from that page… which is easier to remember than the text bookmarks in folders on a browser. 

You can also create boards, so let’s say like the majority of US users you’re organising a wedding, you can create a board specifically for this and pin your links to it – and the great part is that you can also get your friends to pin stuff to it! 

From the initial nose around and some subsequent visits I’m finding myself spending more and more time on Pinterest – and as I’ve read it could be a traffic source that could become as large as Google, Facebook and Twitter.  Why not check it out for yourself and let us know your thoughts…Pinterest 

 

Created on Tuesday February 28 2012 10:00 AM


Tags: pinterest bookmarking


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Accessibility and Captcha

Accessibility and Captcha

At Focus we always try to adhere to the 'latest accessibility standards', a phrase which is often easy to say but requires some practical investigation when developing new projects. Recently I was required to research the possibility of using javascript on a text only version of a website and the possible problems this might cause. Without the ability to ask screen readers users, a survey of 1245 people at Webaim.org was the next best thing. I was surprised to find that as high as 98% of users had javascript enabled, an increase from 75% - 90% in the 2009 screen reader survey. This gave the indication that javascript would be a viable option.

I started to look into other features that we had implemented to help with accessibility and just to update my knowledge on the biggest problems for users with reduced access. There were several issues that you would expect to see high up the list, such as; missing alt tags, poor keyboard accessibility and inaccessible flash. The most problematic item however was captcha. Captcha is Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart, you will often see it when trying to complete forms.

Captcha has the issue of needing to provide security against bots whilst allowing users to still gain access. On some websites I will get the captcha wrong several times so I can imagine a user with poor eyesight would find it impossible. W3 suggests logic puzzles, sound output and non-interactive checks such as heuristic checks (detecting bots using the volume of data the user requests and other background methods) as good possible solutions to solve adding security to websites without reducing access. 

We have been implementing a logic captcha gem which produces questions such as "In the following list how many animals are there: cat, blue, red, lion, yellow?" This gives the user the chance to prove they are not a bot but does not need any extra features for text only or high contrast versions. reCAPTCHA also has improved accessibility from previous versions, adding better keyboard support and sound output. There are several other implementations with positives and negatives as well.

The accessibility and usability of the websites we create will always be a high priority however we can only keep up these standards if our knowledge of what users need is up to date. Our 'next text captcha' is an example of how we try to implement accessibility best practices across our websites. 

Steve Fenn
Steve

Created on Friday February 17 2012 02:41 PM


Tags: web-development accessibility captcha logicpuzzles


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The Future of Facebook

The Future of Facebook

A lot of people are talking about the Facebook IPO and the changes that it may bring; THE social network will no longer be answerable to only themselves but will have opened up to the pressure of shareholders. I’ve worked for a public listed company – share price matters! If the share price drops someone has to take responsibility.

I’ve also noticed the last few weeks bring up some interesting articles on the new Timeline feature (I’m a huge fan, I have to say), but quite a few are slating the new profile style. It’s very Marmite.

2012 is going to be a huge turning point for Facebook. I’ve noticed a number of friends on Facebook saying that they are leaving and to contact them through email or phone. I myself went through a massive Facebook cull of old school friends or people I met years ago that I don’t speak to. I used the analogy of I was walking down the street would I stop and speak to these people or look the other and pray they didn’t notice me. I cut my friends list by over 100 people! 

I’m not saying Facebook is going to nosedive like MySpace did, but I was on MySpace – I used it religiously for new music, talking with friends, etc. Now I use Facebook. A lot. I have the iPhone app, the iPad app, I log in on my laptop – I share news, photos, videos, I chat with friends in Australia, Asia, the Middle East and the Caribbean. I recently posted the 20 week scan picture of my new baby before I had told most people my partner was even expecting – it’s easier than multiple calls or texts. 

It will be interesting to see the changes that happen this year and also next – will the pressure of shareholders drive visitor numbers away (which will change the landscape for businesses advertising on Facebook) or will the billion dollar revenues mean the company consistently innovates as it has been the last 6 years?  Only time will tell. 

 

Created on Friday February 10 2012 10:03 AM


Tags: facebook social ipo future


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When Design is Irrelevant

No-one is going to argue that the better a site's design the easier it is to use. Understanding content, features and functionality on a badly designed website is hard. Getting excited about it is impossible. The mental hurdles your brain needs to go through to look beyond the way a site looks is too high for users to form an objective view. The same site with and without good design simply isn't the same. You can't expect people to be able to look beyond the difference.

So what to do when building a site where the branding requirement is near zero and the message is all important? We'd recommend a solution such as Twitter's Bootstrap project. It provides clean and professional styles for all the common elements a site needs. As well as this the styling is restrained enough that your message can shine through. Built to work in all major browsers to a very high standard it allows you to keep the time required to style a site to a minimum on projects for which the requirement for design is at a minimum!

Faced with this issue when building internal and demonstration sites we use Twitter's Bootstrap project.

Just because the design is irrelevant doesn't mean it's not important.

Created on Thursday February 02 2012 03:24 PM


Tags: website open-source twitter web-design


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