The Web is getting Sloppy, Why is it a Problem and Who’s Fault is it?

Lately I’ve observed a few web sites that have been “re-launched”. Web sites vary from a small time blogger, a popular car forum, a very large automotive vendor and even Google!

First, let me define what I mean by “The web is getting sloppy”. Essentially the Internet is organized by domain names, for example www.google.com. Each domain name or web site is then organized by paths and files. Between the latest additions of domain name combinations (e.g. example.cc) and the past couple years of sloppy organized paths and files on these web sites, the web is becoming a really big mess.

Google.com

So how does this effect you? Well lets start from the top down and discuss Google’s latest sloppy web site changes. The new iGoogle start pages are now available, they have a fresh new look to them to make them easier to use. The problem is, they did not copy or replicate the past behavior. For example, with the old iGoogle pages, you could middle click on the Inbox link for the iGoogle Gmail widget and it would open your Gmail account in a new tab in your web browser. The new iGoogle Gmail widget doesn’t do this. Why is this sloppy you ask? Because when I do middle click, it opens a new window with JavaScript error. Google should know better. they could even add JavaScript logic to capture the middle click and cancel it, the 1 line of code looks like this: event.preventDefault(); Sloppy!

For Google to make such a simple mistake, it really shows that anyone is susceptible to web sloppiness.

YearOne.com

Lets look at a popular automotive parts vendor, YearOne.com. They recently launched a new web site, which is great! Unfortunately, no attempt was taken to route the old paths and pages to the new paths and pages. This means that years of YearOne loyal customers who have been posting links to their favorite products on YearOne.com are now wasted. Bloggers call these links “gold” for a reason, they bring new visitors to your site on a continual basis, usually in situations where traditional means of attracting those visitors is not effective (such as advertising). When the guy down the street recommended a steering wheel 3 years ago on your favorite Chevy forum, you take the recommendation seriously. Well now that YearOne.com failed to correctly redirect the old pages to the new ones, that coveted potential customer traffic is lost.

In the case of YearOne’s problem, this is something that could be solved in 1-2 days with some basic script writing and access to the old and new databases. 2 days of a programmers labor is definitely worth keeping these potential customers coming and buying your products!

Unnamed Car Enthusiast Forum

I absolutely love this site, but it recently violated a number of cardinal rules, such as moving forums to different folder paths on the server and using capital letters in URLs. The forum was moved from www.example.com/smf/ to www.example.com/SOMETHING-ELSE/ and a not so friendly message is now present on the old forum with a link to the new forum. To add insult to injury, the link is just text on a page, it’s not even surrounded with the necessary HTML to make it click-able. The owner of this site missed an opportunity when I offered to help him fix the problem for free. A simple PHP script that automatically redirects traffic from the old forum to the new one would help him keep the old traffic that would come to his site remain, while also keeping the old links on the new forum to going to the right topics on the new forum. The CAPITAL LETTER folder name is no big deal really, but if search engine optimization techniques was ever applied, the folder really should be called “forum”.

Capital letters are frown down upon in web development. When URLs are typed in manually, the possibility of error is increased when someone has to remember to hold down shift. Furthermore, on Linux and Unix based servers, you can have separate folders with the same name since the capital letter folder is recognized as different than a lower case folder.

In this case, I fixed the problem for myself by writing my own GreaseMonkey script which redirects links to the old forum automatically to the new one. My script also removes links that may appear on Google that go to print page versions of the forum to it’s normal readable versions.

Every Day Bloggers

So this is where I will definitely feel bad calling someone out specifically, and luckily the problem is so common I don’t have to anyway. The biggest thing I see is bloggers trying too hard with their sites, injecting every little widget and gadget into their pages till you can’t even tell what was written by the blogger to what is an advertisement. If you take yourself seriously as a blogger, keep your sidebar clean, limit the amount of images you put in your blog posts and don’t over-do your site navigation. And what ever you do, don’t move sites around like checkers. If you don’t have the technical knowledge how to both move a database, reconfigure settings and how to perform 301 permanent redirects, you have no business doing anything with moving sites. Hire someone who knows what they’re doing or leave it as is.

The latest generation of bloggers are unaware of the importance of their blog’s feed URL. What ever you do, treat this as the keys to the castle! If you change this URL in any way, you will have consequences, even if properly redirected it can lead to lost readership and subscribers. Think of your feed as your postal mailbox. You don’t put the mailbox in the back yard and you certainly don’t move it around your front yard either. Once you have a place for your feed, keep it there and never move it!

Who’s fault is it?

I don’t think it’s any one person’s fault. We’re now seeing a new generation of web sites lead by a new generation of web developers who are green, learning the mistakes that my generation had to learn. Unfortunately in an advertising revenue and sales commerce driven web world, even one lost web visitor could mean the difference of gaining or loosing a great customer.

I’ve been developing web sites professionally since June of 2000. If you need a web developer who takes details like these seriously, contact me at www.mandato.com.

Columbus PHP Meetup tonight – The Art of SQL Tuning for MySQL

If you’ve been following my Twitter (@AngeloMandato) lately, you may have herd me mention previous Columbus PHP Meetups. These meetups are great for meeting fellow PHP programmers in the Columbus area and a great way to learn about different libraries, techniques and frameworks that are available.

Columbus PHP Meetup web site: http://php.meetup.com/93/

Tonights meetup topic is “The Art of SQL Tuning for MySQL” presented by Jay Pipes from MySQL. I can’t wait to attend this meetup and gain some insightful knowledge how to tune MySQL. Ever since I started my career, I’ve encountered many issues either with server loads and/or time due to poorly written queries. I think I’ve done a decent job deploying indexes, grouping like queries together, etc… but I know there is more to learn.

The past two Columbus PHP Meetups covered the Zend Framework and CakePHP. Both were great presentations.

The Zend Framework presentation from February was very informative. The Zend Framework was written in a way that the developer can decide how much he/she wants to use from the framework. This makes it possible to easily add the Zend Framework to an existing project. I think the word framework may not be the best word to describe it though, perhaps it should be called library and framework. Many parts of the Zend Framework are really just libraries to help with things like email, XML-RPC, OpenID, Flickr, Amazon, etc… I now plan on using parts of the Zend Framework in some of my projects.

I learned a lot from the CakePHP presentation from March as well. CakePHP is definitely a “framework” with all of the University taught thinking of object oriented programming and separating presentation with logic integrated. What I found interesting is CakePHP took somewhat of a Ruby on Rails like approach in managing your SQL queries. I think this type of development is fine for small to medium size projects but anything where you need full control of the queries or presentation you may find yourself feeling restricted. The presentation side of things reminds me of Smarty Template Engine, which my past experience with Smarty started out great but ended with frustration that I couldn’t add the logic I wanted at the presentation level.

I would like to learn more about CodeIgniter. CodeIgniter is the application framework that Joe used for developing the registration system for PodCamp Ohio.

PHP 5 Study GuideRelated news, I purchased a copy of the Zend PHP 5 Certification Study Guide. I own a copy of the Zend PHP 4 Certification Study Guide and loved the book till the pages started falling out. It is not just for those who want to be certified in PHP, the content is perfect for a developer who already knows how to program but just wants something to reference for the language. You should already have some background in C/C++/Java/PHP before you read this book though. I’m very pleased with this addition as well as the first one. I think I may order the Guide to Programming with Zend Framework next.

So are you attending PHP meetups in your area? If so, what sorts of things are you learning?

Sun acquires MySQL

If you have not herd, Sun Microsystems is acquiring MySQL. I think this is a great move, especially since Sun has embraced the open source community as strong, if not stronger, than other large companies such as IBM, Yahoo and Google.

Article: http://www.mysql.com/news-and-events/sun-to-acquire-mysql.html

I think the move is a good one for MySQL. With the recent purchase of the InnoDB storage engine by Oracle, there has been some concern that MySQL could end up in the hands of a company that’s best interests do not involve the open source community.

The recent influx of participation in the development of MySQL by Google gives me a lot of hope that MySQL’s future will be a bright one. The next generation storage engine called Falcon hopes to become a replacement for InnoDB and many of the performance tweaks Google has implemented over the years will most likely find their way into the future versions of MySQL.