There’s some really interesting conversation going on about IE8 these days.

Basically, it sounds like Microsoft took a thrashing when it released IE7, an imperfect but much more standards-compliant browser than IE6, and all those sites that had been built or hacked or conditionally commented to make them work properly in IE6 were suddenly ‘broken’ in the eyes of their owners.

Microsoft doesn’t want this to happen again when they release Internet Explorer 8 (even though the changes from IE7 to 8 will be less extensive than from 6 to 7). From what I’ve read (and I admit it’s not a lot), IE8 is going to be quite good. It follows the CSS 2.1 specification closely and sounds very promising!

But what can they really do to prevent ‘breakage’ of older sites built for less-compliant browsers?

Aaron Gustafson puts it this way:

“…We’re really only left with one option for guaranteeing a site we build today will look as good and work as well in five years as it does today: define a list of browser versions that the site was built and tested on, and then require that browser makers implement a way to use legacy rendering and scripting engines to display the site as it was intended—well into the future.”

Meaning that future (presumably better and even more standards-compliant) versions of browsers will be required to include all the old rendering and scripting information to show sites that are keyed to a particular browser version correctly.

So if you have a site that you want to display in IE6’s rendering styles forever (I don’t know why you would, but just for the sake of argument), you could add a metatag that said so. This would mean that the company you built the site for would never have to update it no matter what changes happen in IE down the road. Their site would never appear to have ‘broken’ because it would still render in the non-standard browser as intended.

Personally, I have a problem with this. As a standards advocate and someone who lives and breathes web design, this bothers me. Technology improves and things change.

I know there are many many many many designers who don’t care (or even know much about) about standards. This will probably always be true, and that’s okay for them (it makes us look better). But aren’t you kind of short-changing your clients if you build a site and lock it in to the current version of a browser? What if some great new capability is developed that could just blow your client away – but they can’t have it because that old browser doesn’t support it?

This is just my opinion. But for me, it’s not good enough that a business site that I build worked last year. I want it to work in perpetuity. I like improving my skills and what I can offer my clients. I enjoy being able to validate my code (yes I do). It’s part of being a professional; again, my opinion.

And I think that for a business, adapting to change is important. If you have a website that’s three years old and breaks in IE7, I think you should fork over the funds and time to get it updated. It’s a cost of doing business.

Being able to freeze an older, non-compliant site in time forever is kind of like having your own wayback machine and it seems to run counter to the very reason for being online in the first place… I totally agree with one of Eric Meyer’s statements:

“Thus, as a developer, there’s no need to look beyond the current state of browsers. I can just assume that browsers will always support what I’ve done even if it’s the worst kind of short-sighted, browser-specific, who-needs-standards-anyway type of development possible.”

I’m not entirely convince that this is a terrible move and my opinion might change. But I know that I would not be satisfied to have working websites out there that were functioning on a level three years old.

And, finally, it seems to me that if IE10 is to support all the bugs and sloppy rendering of all the versions of IE that went before it, won’t it be ginormous amount of code? Is this even reasonable? Will it affect the function and speed of a browser (I have no idea).

And if IE starts doing it and finds it works well, will the other browser vendors start doing it too? Although I see less reason, since most other browsers have been closer to compliant for far longer…

Lots to consider on the web development front.

I got a very interesting post on one of my mailing lists this morning; because it’s a private list I’ll paraphrase.

The thread began about SEO predictions for 2008 ala Bruce Clay a few days ago and another member added some thoughts that I appreciate, particularly since my clients are mostly microbusinesses with not a lot to spend on what I think is an essential component for their business.

Paraphrasing: “The current economic atmosphere will drive smaller businesses to seek out less expensive, more basic SEO services from those with a reputation for honesty and good results.”

Good for me! I offer the basics. I’m a web designer/developer but I’m also very experienced in SEO. I include basic SEO services with every site I build (included in my pricing), because it’s simply part of the total business website package. SEO is a necessity and not a frill anymore, even for microbusinesses.

I don’t run $100,000 campaigns, I just work hard to get my small clients noticed and I get generally get very good results. I’m open with my process and I involve my clients as much as they want to be involved, with the eventual goal of turning over the SEO work to an in-house person – if they want it that way.

It’s part of my ‘educate the client’ theory of partnering, where in my view a client that understands even the basics of how to leverage their website as a business tool is going to do better, feel more in control, and be far happier with the whole package than those who don’t invest the time to learn.

The beginning of the year seems like a great time to get on top of some business issues that have been dragging along more or less unattended to for awhile.

In 2005, when I started my web design business, I wrote a process document that was really a stab in the dark, with tasks pulled from a few books. In 2006 I rewrote it, using information gleamed for the most part from a really good book by Kelly Goto and Emily Cotler – Web ReDesign 2.0: Workflow that Works (2nd Edition) (VOICES)“>Web ReDesign 2.0. This was a really helpful book for me but it’s written for those redesigning existing sites that are a lot bigger than my clients’ sites.

Last weekend I revisited my 2006 version again. It was not bad, but my process has changed as I’ve gotten better at, well, everything. Some parts are not there anymore, or fused into others. I also noticed that there are some things that I was doing early on that I haven’t paid much attention to lately, and that’s not good.

So I rewrote it again, borrowing from the Gogo/Cotler book, a few design articles I’ve read recently, and my own experience. The final document (Red Kite Creative Formal Design Process) is lean, simple to follow, yet thorough, and reflects both what I’m doing well and the things that I need to focus on more closely. Mostly those things are the pre-visuals, like writing a full project plan and wireframing. I sitemap thoroughly, but I don’t wireframe that much. In some cases I should be doing that more.

The process document isn’t a set of rules, but a record of the workflow that works well for me right now. It will continue to change, I’m sure. But I know that if I eventually have a partner or employee, I want this document ready to be used as an outline for the way I develop websites.

I took a class today, an all-day workshop on beginning digital photography.

I wouldn’t call myself an absolute beginner. I had a nice 35mm SLR and used it a lot at one point, but it’s been languishing in its case in the closet for several years after I got my first digital camera.

I’m on my third one now (and it’s 2 years old). It’s a 3.2 megapixel Canon A510, and apparently still holds its own very nicely despite the fact that it’s a bit dated. Since it has manual operation of shutter speed, aperture, ISO and white balance it’s considered an ASAP (advanced point-and-shoot) rather than a fully automatic camera; a few people in the class had those, while a few others had digital SLR’s.

But I learned a lot today; I learned that my camera is actually quite good within a limited range and I can do a lot more with it than I have before. I got a free trial of Adobe Lightroom and was pretty impressed with what I did with it in the workshop today; someone in the class mentioned Google’s Picasa and I downloaded a copy of that too.

I can see maybe purchasing Lightroom at some point, because I think it would be fun to get back into photography now, but Picasa has a feature I like in that it pulls up all the photos from your entire website no matter where they’re located.

I have hundreds of photos and drawings for clients and this will be pretty useful. Picasa has limited tools for image editing, but if I need that I can always go to Photoshop…

So the class was taught by Steve Glass of Glass Photography here in Fort Collins, and well worth the registration fee. Steve had a guest speaker too – Tom Bol of Tom Bol Photography.

I know a lot more than I did this morning and that’s always the mark of a day well spent.

Well, I bought myself one of these for Christmas, having waited since early November for this one to come back in stock at New Egg and it finally arrived two days ago. I just installed it… and I must say I’m extremely impressed. For a great review of the 8800GT series, which outdoes the 8800GTS, check out Tom’s Hardware.

My game of choice is WoW, and I’ve now got all the video controls pushed to the max. It looks beautiful, the difference is like night and day between this card and the 5200FX (don’t laugh if you know what that is). Worth the wait, definitely.

The card’s fan is very quiet, and it’s running cool. We’ll give it a good breaking-in tonight and see if it shows any tendencies for heating up.

A few specs:

Interface PCI Express 2.0
Chipset Manufacturer NVIDIA
GPU GeForce 8800GT
Core clock 600MHz
Stream Processors 112
Memory Clock 1800MHz
Memory Size 512MB
Memory Interface 256-bit
Memory Type GDDR3
DirectX DirectX 10
OpenGL OpenGL 2.0
Tuner None
Max Resolution 2560 x 1600
RoHS Compliant Yes
SLI Supported Yes
Cooler With Fan
Dual-Link DVI Supported Yes
HDCP Ready Yes

1) Make your site more search engine-friendly.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a must, not a ‘maybe,’ if you want your business site to be found in Google. If you have a great-looking site that no one can find, it’s not doing its job.

2) Add a blog or podcast to your site.

If you like to talk (or write) about your business and you’re good at what you do, a blog or podcast may be just the thing. Both of them do one thing very well – they encourage visitors to come back to your site again and again. And they’re so easy to use! (I’m a huge fan of WordPress). Blogs give you the advantage of adding a new page of fresh content to your site every time you post, while a podcast is like having your very own radio show.

3) Remove a blog from your site.

That might sound odd – but if you have a business blog and haven’t committed the time and effort to post fairly regularly, it’s probably better *not* to have one at all. If your last post was in 2005, consider removing the link to the blog for the time being. It reflects poorly on your company and makes it look like you don’t keep up with things.

4) Write articles about your industry.

Whether you’re a retailer, an architect, or a coach, you have a unique take on your business. Writing articles about it that you can both publish to the many free article syndication sites and post on your own website or blog both establish your expertise and create links back to your site – which Google likes a lot.

5) Give your site a makeover.

If your site is more than a couple of years old, or if it’s never had a facelift, now is the time. A more modern look and feel can give your site new life and make a better first impression. In addition, a redeveloped site can often benefit search engines and human visitors too, with cleaner, leaner code, faster loading times, and easier updating and maintenance.

6) Learn more about your visitors.

Google Analytics is a traffic analysis tool that does much more than just tell you how many people are visiting your site. You can learn, among other things: how much time they spend on each page; what navigation paths they follow through your site; where they come in and leave; what part of the country they’re in; and what links on your home page they’re clicking on. If you use Adwords for PPC marketing you can also learn how much revenue each product on your site is earning and how many have been sold in any given period. Google Analytics is free and easy to use.

7) Break up your content.

Even if you already have a lot of good content on your site, breaking it up into bite-size chunks is always a good way to increase readability. Studies show that people don’t often read websites – they scan them. Think headlines, bullet lists, pull quotes and short paragraphs rather than long uninterrupted text.

(Yes I know this is a lot of uninterrupted text but this isn’t my website. This is for readers, not scanners…)

8) Change the copyright date.

Don’t forget to change (or have someone change for you) the date on the copyright notice that should be at the bottom of your web pages. No, that won’t help you get more visitors, but it looks unprofessional if you forget to do it!

9) Make the product look great.

If you’re selling products, and the images aren’t that fantastic, consider having them redone by a professional. It makes a big difference in the credibility of your site and gives the buyer more confidence that the product will really meet their needs.

10) Consider video.

If you’re selling a product or provide a service that could benefit from visual instruction, think about having a short how-to video made. They’re easy to post on your website, and can do double-duty for your traffic if you also post them on sites like YouTube or Google Video.