Saturday, December 13, 2008

So, what is Javascript?

Virtually every personal computer in the world has at least one JavaScript interpreter installed on it and in active use. JavaScript's popularity is due entirely to its role as the scripting language of all Browsers. JavaScript is a general purpose programming language that was introduced as the page scripting language for Netscape Navigator.

JavaScript is still widely believed to be a subset of Java, but it is not. The Java- prefix suggests that JavaScript is somehow related to Java, that it is a subset or less capable version of Java. JavaScript is not interpreted Java. Java is interpreted Java. JavaScript is a different language. Java was introduced by Apple into their Browsers early on, but it was too complex and it failed, often, and so Apple fell into step and delivered JavaScript as their de facto Browser language too.

JavaScript has a syntactic similarity to Java, much as Java has to C. But it is no more a subset of Java than Java is a subset of C. It is better than Java in the applications that Java was originally intended for.

JavaScript was not developed at Sun Microsystems, the home of Java. JavaScript was developed at Netscape. It was originally called LiveScript.

The -Script suffix suggests that it is not a real programming language, that a scripting language is less than a programming language. But it is really a matter of specialization. Compared to C, JavaScript trades performance for expressive power and dynamism.

As mentioned earlier the books available for Javascript are just poor, the main one we would recommend is JavaScript: The Definitive Guide

Friday, December 12, 2008

How can Javascript deliver the goods for SEO

I seem to have stimulated a good amount of interest amongst our tech team following on from my post on JavaScript. To be clear there are two good reasons to keep an eye on JavaScript development - Search engine optimisation and Social Media.

In SEO the key is all about separation - let not the JavaScript get near your content. In Social Media, the more you use it the better your site - a real dichotomy. There are two ways to employ JavaScript on a site and they are very similar to the way you deal with CSS:

  • Use external files to hold the code

  • Progressive Enhancement

The first item is self explanatory, the second is a classic technique that we use in SEO where we want a specific action to occur. The action would depend on whether JavaScript was turned on or turned off. If JavaScript was turned on then the JavaScript actions would occur, if JavaScript was turned off, then the user would simply see a standard hyperlink for example.

In Search engine optimisation terms; whether JavaScript is on or off, a search engine robot would simply see a link. In English terms; we build a page with solid code and build enhancements on top. If the enhancements fail, the page will not show an ugly error, simply a less good way of getting to the results we had intended.

Just in case you are thinking 'what possible use would that be to me?'. Well one instance could be that if you wanted to show your expert list of closely related sites that are stored in your Delicious account you could use Progressive Enhancement techniques on your web page.

As you would rather keep your list in Delicious, where you can add to it or modify it easily - rather than copy the list, you could place it on your web page with some clever JavaScript and keep it up to date through Delicious.

Your web page would use some JavaScript, (it would need to use JSON - activated through JavaScript because JavaScript works on calls to your own server and no elses) and if it all worked it would show the list you were hoping for. If it failed it would simply show a link to your Delicious account and your users would have to click off your page to go see the list - a lot less desirable - but at least it would not show an error. In the main of course it would work and when it did you would be certain that the list shown was the most up to date list and this would save you the trouble of maintaining the list.

In both cases I would be passing a link to my Delicious account and allowing my web page readers to get the information that I wanted to give them and if Javascript, JSON or Delicious failed, no one would know and my page would be unruffled.

As you can see Progressive Enhancement is a technique that is employed for usability as well as for SEO. Progressive Enhancement protects the integrity of your page and gives benefits to user. This is a real win win concept, that requires an understanding of JavaScript, and is a core component of Web 2.0 sites. So we need to keep an eye on JavaScript for the future.

It is only recently that JavaScript has returned to being considered again as a genuinely useful piece of code. As in the early days JAVA kept on failing and different browsers then had different flavours of JavaScript - as a result, lots of sites failed and helped to make the web the nightmare that it was back then...

Nowadays JavaScript has settled down and really is at the heart of Web 2.0. As Web developers, SEO specialists and consumers, we need to be aware of the benefits that JavaScript delivers to help make the web a more optimistic place.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

CSS gets better with IE8 around the corner

CSS has gone through a major upgrade and IE8 is likely to be released soon. This will make sites look better and easier to manage. With CSS3 already implemented on Firefox and Safari, we can start developing and testing now.

CSS - cascading style sheets - is an essential tool in search engine optimisation - as it separates the design of a site from its content and helps sites download faster.

IE8 is the next version of Internet Explorer - the most popular browser in the world. We saw relatively smooth transitions from IE6 to IE7 over the last few years and now we can see that IE8 is clearly on the horizon. IE8 was first mentioned on the IEBlog in Dec 2007, the first beta version was subsequently available in March 2008. It is likely we will be seeing IE8 soon.

The great news is that CSS3 is being designed as a modular system. So rather than waiting for ages for a big change, changes are occurring one by one. This new methodology is fantastic news for standards obsessed web developers - as each section is finished and tested it can be released and so progress will be made faster and probably lead to further developments too.

This should encourage browsers to adopt the same upgrade path - automatically. Lets face it Microsoft already auto updates its commercial software, as does Apple. With luck Microsoft will be able to update Internet Explorer in the same way. We live in hope.

So what does this mean - better looking sites, sites that are more standards compliant, sites that are faster to load. In just a few years we will see CSS for sites that have less hacks and greater browser support for CSS.

Currently Firefox and Safari both support key features of CSS3 - using vendor identifiers -moz for Mozilla Firefox and -webkit for Safari. Both Firefox and Safari are regularly updated automatically nowadays - so it makes sense that we could expect IE8 to do the same. We live in hope that all our CSS troubles will be sorted soon.

With Firefox and Safari both supporting the key features of CSS3 we can see the new features of CSS3 working. CSS based tables address a big issue that has been missing from CSS to date. CSS3 will also enable text to flow over columns. But the key benefit remains greater ease of development and cross Browser standards that just must happen...

We already have experience of how to deal with user browser migration, so we can expect the upgrade to be implemented seamlessly. As we saw IE6 dwindle we can expect to see IE7 to follow suit to be replaced by IE8...

The King is dead - long live the King!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Why Javascript ?

Ok since writing the last post a couple of people have said why are you talking about JavaScript? I apologise dear readers for not explaining earlier...

Working in search engine marketing and social media, a lot of the focus is of course on site or blog optimisation. All sites - including blogs need to be interpreted - by a browser. The browser itself has functionality that is often used, especially in Web 2.0 applications and that functionality is very often JavaScript driven. By and large we all have it and it is turned on.

So my review was really intended as an update on what was out there for my own personal reasons. I did find some interesting things, although I am still appalled as to the amount of poor documentation that exists for Javascript, which is a real shame.

JavaScript, does have some effect on search engine marketing - mainly you want to separate it from the code as JavaScript is still SEO unfriendly. Although it does help a lot with accessibility and usability and also with pay per click campaigns...

JavaScript is the common driver behind many Web 2.0 elements of site functionality. JavaScript can help deliver the correct style sheet to different media readers as well as help with multivariate testing. JavaScript largely gets in the way of SEO and helps sites to fail accessibility sites.

We have just learned that JavaScript is built into Adobe PDF files - we new we were on to something - indeed it would seem that JavaScript may well be going through a renaissance period - although we can't imagine it is going to go through a metamorphosis - more that it is gaining in currency and as with PDF files, we are going to find that it is used more and more... We will see!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Javascript woes

Javascript is used for a range of things, but mainly to help your browser do good things - load the correct video player, get the latest version of Flash, or most commonly to check that forms are correctly filled in. So, most of us have used Javascript at one time or another. Its most recent application area is in Web2.0 stuff - Ajax applications are applications that work without the user being required to hit a button - so this can provide live stock price updates, or product 'in-stock' values on e-commerce sites or let you know when your friends are online when you are in Facebook or Myspace etc. So yes, probably we have all benefited from Javascript.

So, what is Javascript? Javascript is the key language that exists in web browsers and is a bit difficult to write for because it is a) not always on and b) seems to be different for each browser... Having said that the main browser in use is Internet Explorer for the PC and Javascript is generally turned on. Javascript is a short version of Java, which is what they were aiming at initially and the reason they added the 'script' to the language is because they loaded the browser with so much code that all you need to do as a programmer is to script (tell the software what to do). Whilst the original Java was just too much to cope with and basically failed to work...

So, being an uber techy I decided to review what is hapening in the world of Javascript and anyway it meant could refresh my Amazon dependency that means I have to buy some books, any books, just books, books that I can read on the train, on a plane or up a crane.

This time I focussed on Javacript and basically having driven through six of the best I have to conclude that two were ok, none are essentially and the rest were just, frankly poor - nice ideas, but poor...

So on with the reviews - the worst of all has to be Head First Javascript. Honestly! 618 pages of fluff, you could probably condense the whole thing down to five pages and be done with. The style of writing is interesting, it looks like it would appeal to a five year old and from that perspective is probably a great place to start 'We think your time is too valuable to spend struggling with new concepts. Using the latest research in cognitive theory to craft multi sensory learning experience...' but knowing what I know, I find it difficult to find much that you could really do with it - great examples of what you could do, but not enough practical code that would stand modifying to suit your own needs. I cannot see how you can make anything with this book, although it does cover the principals - 20%

The second worst - to me anyway - was Javascript: The Good Parts, the premise of this is a good idea, that is why I bought it - it defines the parts of Javascript that are generally reliable and those that are not. It has lots of diagrams and could be useful to the extremely focussed Javascript programmer - virtually no workable code, and lots of theory, for me this was lacking in substance. Although this was the shortest of all the books - being 153 pages long, it is to me just half of a book. There is some code herein, right at the back without any work through, so it left me cold I am afraid.

Javascript the definitive guide - by David Flanagan, 5th Edition, Published by O'Reilly Media, Inc. Cover is White with Turquoise Animal on the front is a Javan Rhinoceros 994 pages. This tells a lot about Javascript - it is like a dictionary of terms. Dry as a bone, would take a month to read. This is reference piece really, something where you might be looking for something and discover something else, all very interesting, ideal website material! This should be a searchable database not a book. A tome where ownership could make you feel rather sage. I will learn from this, it will be helpful, it is essential, it may help you design an application, but that would be like walking through treacle.

Javascript & DHTML Cookbook, - by Danny Goodman, 1st Edition, Published by O'Reilly Media, Inc. Cover is White with a Turquoise Howler Monkey on the front, 520 pages. This is the nuts, hence the monkey I suppose. It has almost everything... starting with the usual stuff on DOM, strings, Numbers and Dates, but quickly moving on to the more interesting Browser feature detection, managing windows, frames and onto forms. From there it covers page navigation, style sheets, visual effects, HTML positioning, dynamic content and a final chapter on Dynamic Content Applications. Great stuff worth buying excellent reference material for anyone serious about Javascript web development.

Javascript Application Cookbook - by Jerry Bradenhaugh, 1st Edition, Published by O'Reilly Media, Inc. Cover is White with a Turquoise Hippopotamus on the front - you dont see one of those every day, 464 pages. Lots of depth in just a few application areas really, quite good in its depth, limited in its scope. A client side search engine, an interactive slide show - nice but not essential... Cookie based user preferences, a overly complex but lightweight shopping basket system, Ciphers, drag and drop email and context sensitive help... I am sure I will find a use for some of it somewhere - not immediately exciting, applications are a bit old, dry and past it really, although, essential elements of a web 2.0 website... perhaps.

Simply Javascript from Sitepoint - all sitepoint books have a good feeling about them, I have read on duffer, but most are pretty cool. By Kevin Yank and Cameron Adams, 405 beautiful pages, 1st Edition. First 4 chapters on essential knowledge necessary to understand the way that Javascript works. Then we romp into Animation and Form enhancements, this is the stuff, followed by Errors and debugging they guess right that by now not everything will work - so this is just perfect timing for those who are working through and bang we are into AJAX, now this is the nuts too! The book puts AJAX into Action, then an expert chapter looking forward into the possibilities with a nice rounding off with 30 pages dedicated to the core Java library, just when your appetite is whetted... Buy it!

In summary I think I need to know a lot more about Javascript. I had bought the books as I thought they would help me learn a lot more. One did... I think now I will turn to the internet and see what I can find on which I suspect is what I should have done in the first place. This could very well be a case where new media outshines. Although I do now have an exhaustive library on the subject and perhaps in time, they will become more relevant to me. I will report back with my findings...

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Joomla for SEO and business

Joomla has indeed got better although perhaps not as friendly as Drupal it was also disappointingly a lot less safe. My experience so far is not good, but a good six months have passed since I last spent time on developing a Joomla site, so things may be better now.

Having developed only about 11 sites in Joomla I cannot claim to be a prolific Joomla developer, but I can claim to have some experience and my experience aint all roses it has to be said. Out of 11 sites I have found that about five have not developed too much.

I had hoped to create safe, UGC, SEO friendly sites. I have discovered 4 of those less interesting sites were hacked and blinded with a coy message from the hacker, basically saying hacker woz here - thanks guys, thanks a bunch really helpful, I am sure it was worth your while ruining my surprise.

Strangely the sites I cared about were not hacked - maybe they had more up to date versions of Joomla installed. It is certainly the case that Joomla being open source is quick to have its holes plugged quickly. It seems that there have been a few surprises for the developers, so I am reckoning latest versions will be safer. Note to self: go round and update the version of Joomla installed across all the live sites and revisit the older ones.

I have been disappointed with their so called SEO friendliness too - especially with the sites that are alive and kicking - basically if the content is not linked from the front page, it has not been indexed - again I am hoping this has improved in the latest downloads, although I have found a post that may have the information I need Top 10 Joomla! SEO Tips and Tricks.

I will report back my views and discoveries on the sites - the two sites I am focussing on especially are our Advanced Search Engine Marketing site and our Search top tips site.

Thanks for reading, please leave a comment about Joomla SEO! I will be back soon.

Search Engine Marketing Credit Crunch?

It has been quite a while since my last post, I can quite believe it. We have been so busy these last six months with more and more business being won and existing clients wanting us to do more and of course lots of learning too.

One of the wonderful things at Weboptimiser, being involved in the search engine marketing industry is that the market and hence our services are always changing, always developing. Even more interesting for us - and our clients - we often work out what is going to happen in advance, because - well, we are in it to win it! We stay alert, we see the technology, new vendors approach us, we buy the technology and we create and deploy resulting techniques.

Of course, one of the big things - content is still King - just gets better. The search providers continue to increase their capability, acquire new partners, new services, absorb more technologies, index more, get better at search - but essentially it is all around the same thing - indexing content. - so the key is to identify your lexicon for information production, by creating your very own taxonomy, and focussing on that - you will create more and more content - nowadays, you can deploy against a wider range of media. I have been doing a lot of that recently - amazing amounts. So from a client perspective, there are more ways to differentiate, increase market share, from a vendors perspective (that's us!) - more ways to grow the business, cement relationships and deliver the goods.

Talking about search providers increasing the capability, I am interested to see how Google now incorporates Multi Variant Testing into their systems - this would upset a few technology vendors I can think of - but it is great news for clients - who ultimately will spend less to achieve more - and great for visitors - who will click less to get to what they want.

The economy is up! A big thank you to the Gaurdian for featuring my comments.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Video video video

We have done some great videos recently, for crisis and their crisis london run.

The federation of small business and their Open for business campaign for London Mayoral Elections

Now we are producing videos everyday, including a daily newscast, we will see how that develops. But so far we have got over all the technical difficulties and the only problems seems to be in managing all the different formats and uploading to the right place with the right text - as now we are really in production, the problems are becoming clearer, now something that we refer to already as a back log and in a few days I hope to disappear and to be solved for ever...