New Site Completed – Mitchell Hébert

Mitchell HébertWe just completed a site for Mitchell Hébert, a talented actor, director and teacher who wanted his existing site upgraded, yet wanted to be able to do his own site edits at the same time.  The answer?  A beautiful site based on the WordPress platform once again.  In this case, we concentrated on Mitchell’s gallery, which might be small at the moment, but he plans on growing quickly – it really turned out beautifully – worth checking out if you are considering a site for similar purposes!

New Site Completed – Dogs On Call, Inc.

Dogs On Call, Inc.We just completed a site for a wonderful non-profit organization called Dogs On Call, Inc. – a program whereby dogs are brought to hospitals and more recently student dorms to help relieve stress and anxiety.  It has been working wonders and we are glad to be a part of it by redesigning their site for them.  This particular site has a WordPress platform with a special “slider” on the home page that previews featured posts.  It works beautifully.

We also designed and installed a custom “Members Only” PHP forum for them and will be doing their ongoing maintenance as well.

Blogs Wane as the Young Drift to Sites Like Twitter

Michael McDonald of San Francisco used to post his videos on a blog, but now he uses Facebook. Like any aspiring filmmaker, Michael, a high school senior, used a blog to show off his videos. But discouraged by how few people bothered to visit, he instead started posting his clips on Facebook, where his friends were sure to see and comment on his editing skills.

“I don’t use my blog anymore,” said Mr. McDonald, who lives in San Francisco. “All the people I’m trying to reach are on Facebook.”

Blogs were once the outlet of choice for people who wanted to express themselves online. But with the rise of sites like Facebook and Twitter, they are losing their allure for many people — particularly the younger generation.

The Internet and American Life Project at the Pew Research Center found that from 2006 to 2009, blogging among children ages 12 to 17 fell by half; now 14 percent of children those ages who use the Internet have blogs. Among 18-to-33-year-olds, the project said in a report last year, blogging dropped two percentage points in 2010 from two years earlier.

Former bloggers said they were too busy to write lengthy posts and were uninspired by a lack of readers. Others said they had no interest in creating a blog because social networking did a good enough job keeping them in touch with friends and family.

Blogging started its rapid ascension about 10 years ago as services like Blogger and LiveJournal became popular. So many people began blogging — to share dieting stories, rant about politics and celebrate their love of cats — that Merriam-Webster declared “blog” the word of the year in 2004.

Defining a blog is difficult, but most people think it is a Web site on which people publish periodic entries in reverse chronological order and allow readers to leave comments.

Yet for many Internet users, blogging is defined more by a personal and opinionated writing style. A number of news and commentary sites started as blogs before growing into mini-media empires, like The Huffington Post or Silicon Alley Insider, that are virtually indistinguishable from more traditional news sources.

Blogs went largely unchallenged until Facebook reshaped consumer behavior with its all-purpose hub for posting everything social. Twitter, which allows messages of no longer than 140 characters, also contributed to the upheaval.

No longer did Internet users need a blog to connect with the world. They could instead post quick updates to complain about the weather, link to articles that infuriated them, comment on news events, share photos or promote some cause — all the things a blog was intended to do.

Indeed, small talk shifted in large part to social networking, said Elisa Camahort Page, co-founder of BlogHer, a women’s blog network. Still, blogs remain a home of more meaty discussions, she said.

“If you’re looking for substantive conversation, you turn to blogs,” Ms. Camahort Page said. “You aren’t going to find it on Facebook, and you aren’t going to find it in 140 characters on Twitter.”

Lee Rainie, director of the Internet and American Life Project, says that blogging is not so much dying as shifting with the times. Entrepreneurs have taken some of the features popularized by blogging and weaved them into other kinds of services.

“The act of telling your story and sharing part of your life with somebody is alive and well — even more so than at the dawn of blogging,” Mr. Rainie said. “It’s just morphing onto other platforms.”

The blurring of lines is readily apparent among users of Tumblr. Although Tumblr calls itself a blogging service, many of its users are unaware of the description and do not consider themselves bloggers — raising the possibility that the decline in blogging by the younger generation is merely a semantic issue.

Kim Hou, a high school senior in San Francisco, said she quit blogging months ago, but acknowledged that she continued to post fashion photos on Tumblr. “It’s different from blogging because it’s easier to use,” she said. “With blogging you have to write, and this is just images. Some people write some phrases or some quotes, but that’s it.”

The effect is seen on the companies providing the blogging platforms. Blogger, owned by Google, had fewer unique visitors in the United States in December than it had a year earlier — a 2 percent decline, to 58.6 million — although globally, Blogger’s unique visitors rose 9 percent, to 323 million.

LiveJournal, another blogging service, has decided to emphasize communities. Connecting people who share an interest in celebrity gossip, for instance, provides the social interaction that “classic” blogging lacks, said Sue Rosenstock, a spokeswoman for LiveJournal, which is owned by SUP, a Russian online media company. “Blogging can be a very lonely occupation; you write out into the abyss,” she said.

Source:  The New York Times

At Hansen Web Design, we realize the importance of social integration and your website, and we can help you integrate Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others.  With platforms like WordPress, you can post news on your website and Facebook simultaneously!  Need help setting up a Facebook business page?  We can assist you with that as well.  Call or email us today!

The Mobile Front

SmartphoneAnalysts are predicting that 2011 will be the year that smartphones will go mainstream in the U.S. market.  Research firm Asymco states that 50 percent of the U.S. population will be using smartphones by the end of the year, which is up from 30 percent at the end of 2010 and 18 percent in 2009.  Asymco also estimates that some 80 million Americans – approximately one out of every three smartphone users – will be armed with either an Apple iPhone or an Android-powered device by the start of 2012.  What does this mean for you as a personal or business website owner?  It means you need to consider that more and more visitors to your website will be using mobile technology and you should subsequently be prepared with a mobile theme, or be prepared to lose those same visitors quickly if your site doesn’t show properly.  At Hansen Web Design, we can help you by either ensuring your current site shows up correctly for mobile users or by designing an alternative theme that shows up when a mobile user visits your site.

A Curious Guide to Browsers and the Web

20 Things I Learned About Browsers and the WebTwenty years ago this month, Tim Berners-Lee published his proposal for the World Wide Web. Today, the web is an explosion of pages and apps teeming with videos, photos and interactive content. These powerful new web experiences—such as “The Wilderness Downtown,” our HTML5 collaboration with the band Arcade Fire—are possible thanks to cutting-edge web technologies that bring all this content to life in the modern browser.

But how do browsers and the web actually work? What is HTML5—or HTML, for that matter? What do terms like “cookies” or “cloud computing” even mean? More practically, how can we keep ourselves safe from security threats like viruses when we’re online?

To help answer these questions, we collaborated with the wonderful illustrator Christoph Niemann to publish an online guidebook called “20 Things I Learned about Browsers and the Web.” This handy guide is for those of us who’d like to better understand the technologies we use every day.

20 Things I Learned About Browsers and the Web

“20 Things” is written by the Chrome team, and continues our tradition of finding new ways to help explain complex but fascinating ideas about technology. Many of the examples used to illustrate the features of the browser refer back to Chrome.

We built “20 Things” in HTML5 so that we could incorporate features that hearken back to what we love about books—feeling the heft of a book’s cover, flipping a page or even reading under the covers with a flashlight. In fact, once you’ve loaded “20 Things” in the browser, you can disconnect your laptop and continue reading, since this guidebook works offline. As such, this illustrated guidebook is best experienced in Chrome or any up-to-date, HTML5-compliant modern browser.

For things you’ve always wanted to know about the web and browsers but may have been afraid to ask, read on at www.20thingsilearned.com (or, you can use the handy shortened URL at goo.gl/20things). If you find “20 Things” informative, don’t forget to share it with your friends and family!

Posted by Min Li Chan, Product Marketing Manager, Google Chrome

E-Mail Spam Falls After Russian Crackdown

Silicon Valley Trade Delegation - NYT Photo
A Silicon Valley trade delegation, led by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, visited President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia in Moscow.

You may not have noticed, but since late last month, the world supply of Viagra ads and other e-mail spam has dropped by an estimated one-fifth. With 200 billion spam messages in circulation each day, there is still plenty to go around.  But police officials in Russia, a major spam exporter, say they are trying to do their part to stem the flow. On Tuesday, police officials here announced a criminal investigation of a suspected spam kingpin, Igor A. Gusev. They said he had probably fled the country.  Moscow police authorities said Mr. Gusev, 31, was a central figure in the operations of SpamIt.com, which paid spammers to promote online pharmacies, sometimes quite lewdly. SpamIt.com suddenly stopped operating on Sept. 27. With less financial incentive to send their junk mail, spammers curtailed their activity by an estimated 50 billion messages a day.

Why the site closed was unclear until Tuesday, when Moscow police officials met with reporters to discuss the Gusev case. The officials’ actions were a departure from Russia’s usual laissez faire approach to online crime.

They accuse Mr. Gusev of operating a pharmacy without a license and of failing to register a business. On Tuesday, they searched his apartment and office in Moscow, according to Lt. Yevdokiya F. Utenkova, an investigator in the economic crime division of the Moscow police department.

Lieutenant Utenkova said the search of the apartment turned up seven removable hard drives, four flash cards and three laptops. Specific, computer-crime related charges may follow after police examine their contents, she said. The investigation began Sept. 21, six days before SpamIt.com closed.

Mr. Gusev’s lawyer, Vadim A. Kolosov, said in a telephone interview that his client was not the owner of SpamIt.com and had never sent spam e-mail, but declined to respond to specific questions.

The drop-off in spam since SpamIt.com went down had been noted by companies in the United States that monitor the Internet.

“We’ve seen a sustained drop in global volumes,” Henry Stern, a senior security analyst at Cisco Systems, said in a telephone interview from San Francisco. The company pinpointed the closure of Mr. Gusev’s site as the cause for this easing up.

If individual computer users have not noticed changes in spam traffic, it may be because many people have learned to use spam filters that insulate them from the junk that continuously circulates on the Internet.

Kaspersky Lab, an antivirus company based in Moscow, said there had been a notable drop in mass e-mail in the United States that advertised prescription drugs — to about 41 percent of all spam at the end of the September from 65 percent at the beginning of the month. The figures are comparable in Western Europe, the company said. Many of the pharmaceuticals sold through Web sites promoted by spammers are believed to be counterfeit.

Other computer security companies had reported similar reductions in prescription drug spam, although they cautioned that spam volumes were volatile and often spring back to previous high levels. On a typical day, spam accounts for about 90 percent of all e-mail traffic on the Internet.

Mr. Gusev and SpamIt.com have been widely known in computer security circles, and he had lived openly in Moscow. Spamhaus, an international nonprofit that monitors global spam, listed the SpamIt.com organization as the world’s single largest sponsor of spam.

Last year, the Russian-language version of Newsweek reported that Mr. Gusev’s sites were connected to the same computer server farm in St. Petersburg, Russia, called Russian Business Networks, that was identified in a 2009 report by online security experts with NATO as a source of the attacks on Georgia in 2008.

Mr. Gusev filed suit against Newsweek in a Moscow court, denying links to spamming suggested in the article. That case is still pending. In that suit, he cited phone calls from The New York Times to his lawyer seeking comment as evidence that the article harmed his reputation.

Why, after years of ignoring spammers, Russian authorities have now acted has left online security experts puzzled.

SpamIt.com had operated in a gray area of Russian law, cybersecurity researchers said. They said it had paid commissions to other parties that had directed traffic to various sites operating under the name Canadian Pharmacy, using a Russian online settlement system. Mr. Gusev has denied in blog posts that he promoted spam.

The spammers, meanwhile, operated entirely in the shadows, using networks of computers that had been remotely infected with viruses, known as botnets, and turning them into relay stations for sending e-mail from anywhere in the world.

Some American security experts have said that the spamming operation in Russia appears to have been protected by Russian authorities — whether for reasons of corruption, national pride or state security.

Because most victims of online crime, and the targets of unwanted spam advertising, are in Europe and the United States, Russian police have typically seen little incentive to prosecute online crime, analysts say.

But recently, President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia has been seeking to expand and legitimize the domestic Russian Internet industry — and move it away from its reputation as a playground for hackers, pornographers and authors of darkly ingenious viruses.

In June, Mr. Medvedev visited California to meet with Silicon Valley executives. The SpamIt.com site closed two weeks before the reciprocal Silicon Valley trade delegation, led by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, arrived in Moscow on Oct. 10.

Computer security researchers have conjectured that spamming gangs have sometimes been co-opted by the intelligence agencies in Russia, which provide cover for the spamming activities in exchange for the criminals’ expertise or for allowing their networks of virus-infected computers to be used for political purposes — to crash dissident Web sites, for example, or to foster attacks on foreign adversaries.

The Russian government has denied orchestrating computer attacks beyond its borders.

Source:  New York Times, October 26, 2010

New Client – Law Office of Joshua Harmon

Scales of JusticeHansen Web Design is once again happy to announce a new client – in this case a barrister from Las Vegas – Mr. Joshua Harmon.  Hansen Web Design will be designing a new, 20-page website for Mr. Harmon to befit his practice, and we’re looking forward to setting Mr. Harmon up with not simply a great looking site, but one that is functional and will do well in the search engines.  Hansen Web  Design includes search engine optimization (SEO) in every one of our new designs as we want to see our clients be successful right away with their new websites!  This means that at a minimum we take a look at the content for marketing and SEO purposes, we install Google Analytics, we optimize the meta tag content (titles, descriptions, keywords), and we submit the site to the major search engines (Google, Bing, etc.).  Mr. Harmon’s site will also be designed with CSS (cascading style sheets) so that it will be cross-browser compatible, clean, and fast loading.

New Client – DW’s Custom Jewelry

DW's Custom JewelryWe’re proud to announce our latest client, Dwayne of DW’s Custom Jewelry here in Madison.  Dwayne came to us with a request for some search engine optimization services (SEO) and we were able to help him out even though his shopping cart software proved to be the limiting factor with respect to a number of items.  Nonetheless, we were able to install Google Analytics, set up automated Google Site Map submittals, revise and enhance the meta tags based on actual searches that his customers had been performing and finally set up some automated marketing reporting for him along with some recommendations for further enhancements.

If you are not within the first three pages when performing a Google search, contact us and let us see how we can help you improve your ranking!

Optimal Website Performance in a Multi-Browser World

Multi_BrowserWebsite visitors have one expectation: outstanding Web experiences. Increasingly, the most critical determinant in delivering these experiences is a user’s browser — of which there are many with complex applications, add-ons and serving multiple devices, to boot.

But the cost of failing to optimize browser performance and meet users’ expectations has never been higher with a recent survey* finding that:

• 67 percent of users encounter a slow website a few times a week or more;
• 46 percent say slow load times cause them to abandon sites very frequently or somewhat frequently; and
• Over a third say slowness makes them less likely to return to a site.

Clearly, optimal browser performance is a key to keeping users on a website and, therefore, closer to conversion goals.  But what is causing performance problems for so many users? Let’s explore a few Web trends to find some answers:

Increased Browser Market Fragmentation: Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) is a very popular browser but with just 24 percent of the browser market share, it lacks the dominance of earlier versions of IE. Those earlier versions and other, competing options include Firefox, Safari, Chrome and others. In total, these options account for more than three quarters of all users.

Different browser platforms — as well as different versions of the same platform — perform and behave in different ways.

Consider connections per host name:
The greater the number of connections per host name a browser can make, the faster a page loads. Currently there is an eight-second difference in response time between the fastest- and slowest-performing browsers. With such a wide variation, businesses must select performance optimization techniques suited to those browsers that drive the most traffic and revenue, on a global basis — an optimization technique that works well on one browser may cause an adverse effect on another.

Mobile Web Uptake:
Today, businesses not only have to manage greater browser diversity on desktop computers but also contend with new complexity brought on by the mobile Web. With approximately 500 mobile browser/device combinations in use throughout the world, the prospect of managing performance across all (or even most) of them is seemingly impossible.

However, businesses that fail to optimize for the mobile Web experience could miss out on the sizable customer reach and revenue potential of this growing channel. For example, Morgan Stanley recently made a prediction that mobile users will outnumber desktop Internet users worldwide by 2014. Also consider the fact that AT&T has experienced a 50 percent increase in mobile data over the last three years. Despite this growth, users expect the mobile Web to load almost as quickly — if not faster — compared to the computer they use as home. Any business serious about the mobile Web must prioritize performance.

Feature-rich Applications Shift Responsibility to the Browser:
Today’s websites and applications have evolved to rich composites; comprising of content and services delivered from the data center as well as from other sources outside the firewall — content delivery networks, advertising networks, video, shopping carts, Web analytics and ratings and review systems, for example. A recent study of 3,000 companies found that the average Web-based transaction involves 8.85 different third parties or hosts. The browser is responsible for assembling all of these components and presenting them to the user.

As applications grow richer (and by extension, heavier), technologies like AJAX, Flash and Flex help maintain application speed by enabling browsers to perform much of the application work. Other industry advances like HTML 5 place an even heavier burden on browsers by storing data on the client side, easing server demand. Browsers have evolved from a “rendering engine” to an “integration platform,” and are responsible for over 60 percent of overall processing time, in some cases. For this reason, front-end performance improvements for key browsers often yield the highest payback for the user experience.

Below are a set of best practices for delivering superior performance across browsers to take control of your site and your users’ experiences:

Implement a comprehensive monitoring approach, both pre- and post-deployment:
Businesses must monitor real-time performance on all major browser types available to users. Visual and functional testing should be automated and conducted on a regular basis. This approach should include both operational or synthetic monitoring of websites and applications across top browsers as well as experiential or real-user monitoring to capture what users and customers actually experience.

Today, worldwide testing networks offer businesses a fast, easy view into website and application performance across more than 500 browsers and browser/device combinations, from the real user perspective. This is important because as an application leaves the data center it is supplemented by third party services and passes through local ISPs and mobile carriers before ultimately being delivered to browsers and devices. Problems can occur at any point of this Web application delivery chain, and the user perspective is the key to identifying problems, determining if they are browser-related (or not) and implementing optimization techniques at the browser level.

Understand which browsers your visitors use, and monitor what matters:
In an environment of limited resources, most businesses can’t test and optimize across all browsers, so they must focus on the issues that really matter. If a company’s major source of business comes from Asia, for example, it’s far more important to measure site performance on IE6 — the most popular browser in that region — than the more recent, yet less used IE7 and IE8. Businesses should not waste energy on “edge cases,” such as browser versions that represent insignificant portions of their audience. Instead, concentrate on monitoring browsers with the highest ROI potential for the business (the same rule applies to mobile browser/device combinations). Furthermore, businesses must concentrate on the parts of the website that matter most: The most popular content, highest revenue transactions and the most complex rich Internet applications.

Focus on front-end performance improvements:
These efforts often deliver the most positive impact on user experience while requiring less time and money than back-end projects. Consider browser optimization techniques like domain charding, which entails “fooling” a user’s browser into thinking there’s more than one host. As a result, multiple connections can be made to a host server at the same time, enabling more objects to be downloaded simultaneously and thus creating faster downloads for little extra time or money.

However, domain charding is an example of an optimization technique that works well for some browsers but not others. It is ideal for older browsers that are typically capable of only two parallel connections at a time. In this scenario, if three hosts are detected, six objects (versus only two) can be downloaded at once. The technique is problematic for newer browsers like IE8 and Google Chrome that enable up to six parallel connections. For these browsers, three hosts detected translate into 18 images downloaded at once — which often overload servers and has the adverse effect of a Web performance slow-down.

Measure the impact of peak traffic:
Since newer browsers offer greater connection parallelism, businesses must understand how this can impact overall site performance under heavy load. Only then can they truly understand if their infrastructure capacity is sufficient. The key is to combine load generated from the cloud with load generated from real user desktops — providing a sense of how users are actually experiencing a website or application at the edge of the Internet, from their very browser. Older load testing approaches (which entail leveraging one’s own data center-based servers to stimulate high traffic volumes) may miss the true impact of increased connection parallelism on the user’s Web experience.

Browsers exert a huge influence on the quality of a user’s Web experience. Ensuring performance across browsers and browser/device combinations is both essential and challenging. New approaches focused on the user’s experience combined with a hierarchical prioritization of browsers (based on page views coming into a website) are the keys to overcoming complexity and maximizing Web performance, time and resources in a multi-browser world.

This article was originally posted at Website Magazine on September 28, 2010.

About the Author:
Matthew Poepsel is VP of Performance Strategies of Gomez, the Web Performance Division of Compuware.
* “When Seconds Count”, conducted by Equation Research on behalf of Gomez and released in September, 2010.

At Hansen Web Design, we take pride in designing multi-browser compatible sites for our clients that load quickly.  We optimize your code and your graphics so that your visitors do not wait any longer than they have to for any portion of your site to load.  Take a look at our portfolio and services today!

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