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Impact - A Blog by INM

Archive for '2011'

    Exploring Responsive Web Design

    As companies struggle today with their mobile presence, they are often faced with the requirement of offering a “one-size-fits-all” approach or are forced to tailor their site for a few select devices. One alternative that’s making waves recently is an approach pioneered by Ethan Marcotte, called responsive web design. In short, responsive web design enables organizations to create beautiful user experiences that are optimized for a wide range of devices, while minimizing the need for costly device-specific development iterations. This approach breaks the constraints of the physical page and encourages designers to create designs that are dynamic and can reflow depending on size of the viewer’s screen.

    With responsive web design, designers and developers can embrace this inherent fluidity from the ground up. As the size of the browser window changes, the content can simply reflow, resize and re-position itself on a sliding scale from the smallest phone to the largest desktop computer.

     

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    Apple’s Path to Become the First $1T Company

    Apple Logo

    A few months ago, USA Today speculated that Apple would become the first $1 trillion company. Earlier this week, Apple made great strides toward this milestone when it surged ahead of ExxonMobile Corp to capture the title of world's most valuable company.

    Whether Apple lives up to this prediction or not, it has already achieved what seemed impossible. The company saw a 300% increase in stock price in less than three years, in a very difficult economic climate.  Today, Apple exceeds Microsoft in market capitalization ($213 Billion for MSFT vs $302 B for AAPL) although, just 14 years ago, Microsoft had to inject $150M into its bank account to keep from going out of business.

    These facts are extremely unlikely and unpredictable, but don’t come as a surprise to anyone who has observed the last few decades with objectivity and, amongst other trends, paid attention to principles such as The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable.

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    A Hands-On Look at Adobe Edge

    Adobe Edge Logo

    This week I had the chance to play around with the first preview release of Adobe Edge.  Edge allows web designers and developers to create web standards based animation without doing any coding whatsoever.   Reminiscent of the way in which Flash helped to open the world of web animation to designers from non-technical backgrounds, Edge stands poised to lower the barrier to entry into HTML5, CSS3 and Javascript animations.  In an environment that has seen Flash become somewhat of a pariah, embracing the open web is a logical way forward for Adobe.  While it’s still very early in development, Adobe has managed to do some impressive things with Edge, and releasing it this early demonstrates that they are serious about incorporating user feedback into future iterations.  Now, let’s get under the hood…

    The interface borrows heavily from the Flash UI.  So Flash users will be up and running in no time with Edge.  There are five main panels: Tools, Properties, Elements, Stage and Timeline. 

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    Why Won’t IE6 Die?

    Internet Explorer logos tossed in a rubbish bin.

    A few weeks ago, WordPress announced that it was dropping support for Internet Explorer 6. For now, this will only affect blog writers and publishers, but this could soon affect viewers and readers of these blogs as well.

    WordPress is definitely not the first to make this kind of announcement. Google announced that it will not support IE6 when it makes new improvements to its YouTube, Gmail Notifier and Google Docs services. Facebook, White Pages, Digg and many more sites are also on-board.

    Microsoft, the maker of IE6, has been actively promoting its website http://www.ie6countdown.com to encourage and explain why people should move away from the browser. IE6 is two-months short of its tenth birthday, making it a real relic in a technology landscape where new browser versions are announced every 3-4 months. In fact, trying to load most websites on IE6 will bring up a very intrusive graphic encouraging the user to upgrade.

     

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    Apple Backtracks on Subscription Model Requirements

    iPads with digital magazine covers

    The other week, Apple announced that with the upcoming changes to iOS that it would also reverse some of its stringent requirements for in-app subscription handling.   Specifically, Apple removed the requirement that all subscriptions available through Apple be the same price or less expensive than ones offered outside the application. It also now allows publishers to once again offer external subscriptions, even if they don’t offer them in-app as well.

    This doesn’t come as much of a surprise to me, as I never really understood Apple’s reasoning for forcing subscription model changes. Asking publishers to change a successful multi-channel subscription model just wasn’t realistic, even for Apple. This to me is parallel to Apple’s initial requirement that all iPhone applications had to be natively built using Objective C. The company soon realized that while this approach would protect the application quality and user experience, that the trade-offs were too high in terms of limited developer adoption. They simply needed to open up additional options for building iPhone applications to ensure that there were compelling titles available to sell the hardware. 

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    Delivering Web Experience Management

    Adobe Solutions Partner Logo

    As you may have heard, we officially became an Adobe Solutions Partner last month. As a long-time Adobe friend and partner, this was a logical next step for us. However, the real catalyst behind us joining this program was Adobe’s new Web Experience Management (WEM) platform, CQ5. Over the past few years, we’ve worked with a number of clients to build websites and help them create their digital presence. Until recently, we’ve mainly leveraged open source technology (such as Joomla!, Drupal and WordPress) as the foundation and built bridges to other solutions or we've done customizations to create the desired experience. For some of our clients, the open source web content management systems (CMSs) have been great and have met all their requirements. But for others, we started to run into some walls and barriers where we were stretching the technology to its limit.

    This is where the Adobe CQ5 platform comes into play. The technology, acquired by Adobe last year from Day Software, is a robust, modular platform that encompasses web content management, digital asset management, and social collaboration. It is truly an enterprise caliber solution that delivers a balance of effectiveness, improved client experience and multi-channel optimization. 

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    Cross-Platform Mobile Development – Which is the Right Path?

    Different iphones

    With the announced availability of the Blackberry Playbook, the growing popularity of Android devices, and the traction that Windows Phone 7 is seeing, is it’s getting more challenging for businesses to develop a mobile applications strategy. There are several different paths to building a mobile application, including:

    • Native Development: This involves building a separate application for each platform using the recommended native language.  
    • Titanium Appcelerator: An open source platform that allows developers to build mobile apps in Javascript and to package them for delivery on different platforms (Mac, Windows, mobile).
    • Open Plug: A software developer kit (SDK) to build cross-platform native mobile apps using ActionScript/Flex.
    • QT: A cross-platform application and UI framework that enables developers to build once and deploy across many platforms.
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    What You Need to Know about Google’s Recent Algorithm Changes

    Google Algorithm

    Late last month, Google made a major change to its search algorithm. The intention was to improve the rankings for high-quality sites and push down results for lower quality ones. Initial statements from Google said that about 12% of all search queries would be affected, but now, just a few weeks later, hundreds of businesses are up in arms that they are being unfairly targeted.

    Google’s goal was to improve the relevance of search results and reduce rankings for sites that simply scrape content from others and pool it together to boost their rankings. These sites, dubbed as “content farms”, use other people’s keyword-loaded content to boost their rankings and draw in visitors, which in turn, drives up their advertising dollars.

    What does this mean for your business? There are two main groups affected – those that aggregate or reuse content from other sites and those that rely heavily on article submissions as part of their marketing mix. If you aggregate content from other sites, and don’t supplement this with original content, your search rankings with Google will fall. Likewise if you submit articles to sites like eHow, EzineArticles and Associated Content as a way to boost site referrals, you will likely see a big drop in referral traffic as these sites are seeing significant drops in their own traffic due to Google’s change.

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    The Book is Not Dead and Other Take Home Messages from TOC 2011

    O'Reilly TOC Conference

    Last week I spent a busy couple of days connecting with the publishing community at O’Reilly’s Tools of Change for Publishing Conference in New York. It’s been a few years since we’ve attended this show, but with our recent surge in publishing related projects, I felt it was a great venue to hear what others were doing and what emerging trends we should keep our eyes on.

    The overwhelming message from the show was that “The book is not dead”. The format that’s been around for the past 500 years is not going anywhere. However, there are tons of new market opportunities around the book that publishers must begin experimenting with new business opportunities. What publishers need to keep in mind is their core focus and their business objectives. Technology providers are pushing publishers to quickly adopt new technology, in some cases, even before it is fully ready for mass adoption. A good example of this is the new draft specification for the ePub 3 standard that leverages rich elements based on HTML5 and CSS3. This standard does provide so much more for publishers, but there are significant limitations, as the functionalities of these technologies only really work in Safari or iBooks, which severely limits the publisher’s market. What publishers need to realize is that HTML5 is a continuum, that will roll out in progressive implementations and will take years for all features to be supported by all browsers. It’s a great direction but is still in its early days.

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    Competition Heating Up in the Tablet Market

    Tablet and iPad

    What a busy few weeks for major announcements in the tablet market. First Google announced Honeycomb, the latest version of its OS for mobile devices. Honeycomb is specifically designed to run on the larger tablet-sized screens adding a new level of support for multi-tasking, more elegant notifications, better home screen customization with a new 3D experience, and redesigned widgets. The OS also delivers big changes for the web browser, including tabbed browsing, auto-fill forms, bookmark synching with Google Chrome, and incognito mode for private browsing. The launch of Honeycomb makes the huge influx of Android-based tablets even more competitive against the iPad by adding the last layer of support and the necessary refinements to the OS to make it work well on tablets.  

    Just this morning, Google announced at the World Mobile Congress in Spain, that Android 2.4 will combine both Gingerbread and Honeycomb into a single OS. This simplifies things for users and makes for a more harmonious experience for Android users across their phones and tablets.  

    Google also launched the Android Market, a centralized web hub for accessing apps. In the past, Android users could only access the App Market through their device and some carriers even opted to link users to a proprietary store with their own selection of apps, which made distribution of Android apps across carriers complicated for developers and publishers. With the Android Market website, users can easily browse and share apps and can even push apps out to their device remotely.

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    Flattr: Finally a Novel Micropayment System

    Flattr logo

    Over the past few months, a marginal European social “micro-donation” site called Flattr has become so popular that it may very well determine the future of e-Commerce.

    The idea for Flattr was initiated in 2007, with the first release in August 2010. The initial idea was to provide people with a new way to donate funds to content publishers. Prior to Flattr, Paypal was the defacto standard but it really didn’t work well for small donations. With Flattr, you open an account and determine the amount you are willing to give away each month - usually a few Euros (there is a minimum of 2€). Then, as you visit websites and blogs that display a Flattr button, you click to “flatter” the author which gives them a “tip”. At the end of each month, your budget is spread across the websites on which you clicked the Flattr buttons.  For instance, if you happen to allocate 2€/month and only click on one Flattr button once, that site gets the full 2€. However, if you clicked on a 100 Flattr buttons during the month, each site gets 0.02€ no matter whether it was Financial Times or your neighbor’s weekend blog.

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