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Archive for the ‘Web Design’ Category

New Website for Activo: www.activo.com

November 23rd, 2010
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I have good news and bad news to tell you, well it is not really bad news, but just wanted to use that saying…

The bad news is that this website is has just become absolute. Meaning we will no longer publish anything new or introduce any new content on this website. The good news is that we already have a new website and the new website can be found at www.activo.com. Notice that we got the domain name that we always wanted to have for Activo – Yeah!

Activo

For those of you who are interested, the new website was launched in late August of 2010. The domain was purchased back in November of 2009. The site currently already have twice the amount of traffic that this website has. The site also reflects a few changes in Activo:

  1. We moved our offices from Santa Clara to Los Angeles – and we love it down here. In fact LA is a great hub for techies and entrepreneurs, believe it or not.
  2. We now have a virtual team of developers, designers, and project managers. Yes – it was a decision we had to make back in the days before we moved and it turned out to work great. Our customers love it.
  3. We have decided to focus on Magento Development and Magento Extensions. I got to say, what a great decision that was!

So, check out the new website and our new blog. I (Ron Peled) will continue to post regularly about our daily grind and share with you as much as possible from what I am doing at any given time. Drop me a line if you have any suggestions or recommendations.

.NET Framework, AJAX, Content Management Systems, eCommerce, Ektron, Joomla, LAMP: Linux Apache MySQL PHP, Magento, Performance Optimization, PHP/MySQL, Project Management, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Web Application Hosting, Web Design, Web Development, Web-based User Interfaces, ZenCart

jQuery Emerges as Most Popular Javascript Library for Web Development

November 3rd, 2008

It seems to be official: jQuery is gaining ground faster than any other JavaScript Library. There may be many reasons but I like to think that jQuery is leading the pack due to its simplicity and relatively small size. Here is what Google Trends is showing us:

Top Reasons for jQuery’s ground gaining:

  • Simplicity.
  • Small in size: only 15K for latest production release after its minified and gzipped.
  • Extendable: pretty big plugin library. Currently showing hundreds of plugins.
  • CSS3 Compliant and one of the first JS Library to use CSS selectors.
  • Handles AJAX very well while avoiding code bloating.
  • Major adoption by ASP.NET developers and teaming up with ASP.NET’s team for improved integration

jQuery Resources:

Other Javascript Libraries:

All these Javascript frameworks provide the basic idea of single developer resource for cross browser and cross platform JavaScript development. Additionally, all make AJAX a little bit easier:

If you know of any additional interesting jQuery Resources, drop me a line. Thanks!

.NET Framework, AJAX, Web Design, Web Development, Web-based User Interfaces , , , , ,

Inspiring Commentary Article on Web Design Practices

August 27th, 2008
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Written by Kimberly Elam, Web Design by Design made me think twice before running to draft the next web site design with our designer. This same minimalistic approach of almost too little but just enough to make a clear point approach is great because it begs for more. As Kimberly puts it, the user remains hungry for more information. And guess what they will probably do? call or email for more information!

This article highlites the a similar line of thought for successful web firms: they target what their clients need not what they can do with technology or design. Hence this comes to remind us that websites, in any aspect: design or web development, are here to serve the business. A website is just a tool not the goal.

This comes accross with our line of though at Activo: each one of our proposals begin with what are the goals in this project. In other words, what will we achieve by the following web development project?

Web Design, Web Development, Web-based User Interfaces , ,

Free Open Source ICO File Format for Photoshop

March 25th, 2008
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Once in a blue moon, a web developer will need to format or re-work the favicon for the website they are working on. What are the alternatives? Download a shareware from download.com. Any of those applications will need installation. Most people start complaining within a month or even a week if they haven’t purchased a license. I always try to avoid such ad-hoc installations, because you never know what else you might be installing on your machine. In other words, it’s not safe or stable.
open source file format plugin for Photoshop
A nice, free, and open source alternative is the open source file format plugin for Photoshop. This little plug-in works on Mac, PC, and even VISTA platforms. It supports Photoshop versions up to CS2. If you have Photoshop installed on your machine, all you have to do is download the zip, and copy the plugin (1 file) into the right folder. On my laptop the path to the folder was:
C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS2\Plug-Ins\File Formats

Reopen your Photoshop and you are done! drag and drop the ico file or save your image as (use “Save As…”) and choose the ICO file format.

If editing icons were a bit easier than playing with pixels. On a side note, what happened to the transparency with icons? That’s a question for another day..

Web Design, Web Development, Web-based User Interfaces

My ZenCart site is down [Problem Solved]

August 2nd, 2007
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The Problem

This morning, we got a few calls today from clients complaining about not being able to login into the administrator panel of their shopping carts. They were all using ZenCart ecommerce. After a 45 minutes on the phone with LiquidWeb (a hosting company that excels in support) we figured out the problem: each time you login into the admin panel of ZenCart, a quick ‘Update Check’ is being done. The Update Check is using a webservice to display the latest update from the official ZenCart site. However, this morning the official ZenCart site was down which halted the login process altogether.

The Solution

After you unsuccessfully try to login, use the same browser window or tab and go to this URL: http://www.[YourDomain].com/admin/index.php and try until you manage to login. Once you are logged in, go to ‘Configuration’ > ‘My Store’ page. Click on the 8th option from the bottom, the one that says: “Show if version update available” and change it to false. Click on update and you are done. Try to logout and log back in again.

A better solution will need some coding. What we recommend is setting a timeout on the web service query to 10 seconds. The only problem with this is that it will require modifying the core files which is always a bad idea. For now, the above solution should work.

Web Design, ZenCart

7 Key Focus Areas when Revamping Websites

March 11th, 2007
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Recently we helped relaunch the www.jeremiahspick.com website. This website was using a 3.5 year old osCommerce, it now runs on the latest ZenCart open source e-commerce platform. Here I summarize the top 7 improvements that made a lot of difference:

  1. Decide on goals and show them in your layout, design, and development:
    The previous site had a bunch of HTML pages on the root folder which served as an informational basis site and the shopping cart was one level down in the subfolder: /shop. This served great for 2-3 years but we realized that Jeremiah’s Pick site first goal was to sell online and the average user who comes to visit the site, is looking to buy their great coffee. Hence, we brought the shopping cart to the root folder, and in fact the shopping cart runs the entire site. This includes a full use of the ezPages component in ZenCart which serves as a limited content management system.
  2. Centralize the main menu:
    Previously, the site was set to be navigated via three or four different menus, depending on what page was the user at. The new site has one simple navigation bar in the son-of-suckerfish technique which implements a nice SEO sensitive menu.
  3. Reduce the number of clicks to action (CTA):
    In this case, the action was defined as a purchase, add to cart, or inquiry submission. Hence, we made sure to reduce the number of unnecessary categories, subpages, and therefore clicks. We did so by consolidating pages, reorganizing the sitemap and separating groups of products into the minimum necessary subcategories.
  4. Revamping a website means a better look:
    Call it in any way you wish, the site still need to impress your existing users. In 2-3 years, the wealth of stock images and digital cameras have improved quite a bit. Make a use of it and push the limit of your designer. Show the final draft to a few of your friends/colleages/strangers and look for the ‘WOW’ reaction within 3 seconds. If you don’t see it, go back to the drawing board.
  5. Build a dynamic platform, not only a website:
    Today, there is no reason a new website cannot be fully managed by the computer illiterate. Use content management systems, WYSIWYG editors, database driven shopping cart, etc. Make sure the user has full access to all the elements on their page, especially the front page.
  6. Automate processes:
    If the website shares user database with an outside email management software, look for their API and connect your shopping cart with their system directly. Connect the order process to a real time shipping calculator. Connect the cart to a real time credit card gateway. Make the daily report available for a quickbooks import.
  7. Track Results:
    Once the new site goes live, the work is far from over. Track your results, either your results are hits, user registrations, or online orders, make sure to save the results from the past year and compare it for the next couple of weeks on a daily basis. Question any significant variation, if it is negative, work to correct it, otherwise make sure the results are real.

Websites are one of the most important assets of any business today. Don’t overlook any detail and make sure to always have your users in mind when you work on revamping your website.

Web Design