Thursday, 25 October 2007

I'm being stalked by CRM systems

I've just moved jobs and had to phone up our email marketing supplier to book into a training course.

I couldn't get through so i left my name and was told someone would ring me back.

Half an hour later somebody phoned me. The first thing they said was, "Your name is Ed Sexton? Did you work at Reed before working on i-think?".

I was slightly freaked out, replied in the affirmative and the man i was speaking to then explained to me: "I thought so, I looked up your name on our CRM system before i rang you. You were on the system after you contacted us in 2006 to test our system out for your last company. We're now following your career!"

I laughed and laughed till my head exploded after this comment. I really have travelled to 1984.

Incidentally I didn't actually use them after testing their system for my previous company. How these things come round.

Linking to PDFs and still being accessible

I'm just about to link to a PDF and want to make sure that the link abides by accessibility guidelines for the benefit of my web users.

Now I know from Steve Krug's book and other accessibility nuggets that there are some basic rules for ALL links and also some specific PDF relevant things (as you can see, the following is just an index of Jakob Nielsen's website!).

  • Only use PDFs if you have to. Presenting in HTML format is often a lot more user friendly.
  • The link design should be obvious (Jakob Nielson has a whole article on this) - personally i think a different colour and underlined is the most accessible (i bet you just tried to click that!). However links can still suit design, check out the BBC website, it's really obvious what's a link and what's not.
  • Create gateway pages for each PDF file so users can see what they are about to get (Jakob on gateways)
  • If you are linking to a PDF on someone else's website don't do so directly. Link to their gateway page, there are a number of reasons why, again Jakob sums it up best.
  • Ensure the PDF opens in a new browser window (Jakob on opening files from a web page).
  • Tell users that it's a PDF and what file size it is.
  • Explain to users what a PDF is and give them a link to the Adobe website to download Adobe Reader.

Now it's this last point that i've been stuck on. I'm just linking to a tube map and i don't want a whole gateway page (maybe i really should) with introduction etc. The BBC go all the way and are comprehensive with their PDF links (their annual reports [was] a good example [the page has now been changed]), hence the advantage of creating gateway pages - you have space to explain PDF files.

So against my own advice i'm going to compromise and use a table to format the following side by side (these are pretend links for the purposes of this post...).

Download tube directions (PDF, 300 KB)More information on
PDF files

  1. So STOP!
  2. Do you need to have a pdf?
  3. If you do make sure you give it a gateway page.
  4. Explain about PDFs to your users.

UPDATE (2/11): After all that i revisited my pdf of tube directions this week and decided to put it on my site in a downloads section (in other words a gateway page) as it's so much tidier. Should have listened to my own advice ;)

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Adding a tag cloud to blogger

UPDATE: Google now offer this as an option on the label gadget saving you the coding hassle.

Ever since i was asked if i'd heard of a 'tag cloud' in a recent job interview i keep hearing this phrase all the time. I love them far too much for their simple way of presenting information, it's what web 2.0 is all about for me - making information clearer.

Anyway I've just added a tag cloud to this blog, it's all very exciting.

Go to phydeaux3's blog to learn how.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Inputting HTML examples without it being coded

How do you put html coding in a post - such as <strong> - without blogger or whatever WYSIWYG editor actually interpreting it as real code rather than a sample you are trying to display

Possibly the most boring post of all time but my excuse is somebody asked me how i did it. Why my kind friend told me verbally as opposed to leaving a comment on the relevant post is beyond me and totally against the principle of Web 2.0. I've told you before, I'm writing a blog, you can't speak to me in real life!

Anyway all you have to do is put in the appropriate html code for each symbol as opposed to the symbol itself. So if you want '<strong>' then you need to actually put into your post &#60;strong&#62;. This is because < is &#60; in html coding. The code for the symbols is standardised by ISO-8859-1 and click on the following for the full list of all the symbols or the 'HTML Coded Character Set' as it's called.


Friday, 19 October 2007

Teach yourself HTML

Everyone working online should have an understanding of HTML. Mainly because it's so easy to understand the basics.

I've learnt all my HTML knowledge online, search on Google, there's hundreds of pages devoted to teaching you HTML and ironing out problems. But the one site that i've got in my favourites (or 'favorites' as it says on my screen despite the fact English(UK) is my preferred language) and I use ALL the time is (drum roll):

The link above in particular (as opposed to the home page) i find most useful. Bookmark it now! All the links on that page open up another window that allows you to change html and see the result.

Steve McLaren should write Alf Ramsay's biography

OK, this is nothing to do with Web 2.0 but it is pertinent to my life and i've nowhere else to write it and it needs to written!

England lost to Russia on Wednesday night in the Euro qualifiers severly denting their chances of qualification into Euro 2008. The papers are calling for Steve McLaren's head if England don't qualify and many factors are being blamed for England poor qualifying campaign.

However it seems clear to me that within any team the manager gets better with time. Look at Ferguson for Man Utd and Wenger at Arsenal, both been there for years and their teams perform well season upon season. And don't forget that Ferguson was appalling in his first season at Man Utd. I think McLaren is getting better with each game and now a year in, he's starting to get the team working.

So my solution:
  • No manager can be sacked for two years unless he fails a number of criteria (such as not winning against Macedonia - joke)
  • Every new England manager is tasked with writing the biography of a previous England manager's time in charge of the country.

They've got loads of spare time so it's not as if they can't fit it in and by doing so they'll learn some of the mistakes previous managers make. The general public will also get an insightful biography and the FA can make a bit of cash (like they need it). Everyone wins!

So i eagerly wait for McLaren's first installment, of "Alf Ramsey, the man who won"...

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Putting social networking bookmarks on blogger posts

UPDATE: I can't guarantee this still works. I've since ditched it now that blogger provides share buttons as an option (it only took 3 years...).

OK, about 2 hours ago I thought, 'Those bookmark links at the end of BBC articles look really cool and encourage traffic, how would i do something like that?' Scroll down for the answer, read on for my wibbling.

Simple I thought, someone else must have figured it out, i'll just search Google Groups and the answer will appear.

Well lots of answers did appear but not quite the right ones. I want
  • Bookmarks appearing at the end of my post
  • With little logos for each
  • And with nice accessibility touches such as "Bookmark with" and "What are these?" written at the end plus alt text coming up when you hover over the links.
Well as you can see I figured it out eventually (except the "What are these?" bit but I'll update this post when I figure that out) and the steps are described below. First off I'll acknowledge the people who helped me on the way.

I first considered the add this option which is really easy but clicking on it does take you to the 'add this' page before the relevant bookmark page which i didn't want. I'd recommend this though if you want a really simple option.

I then thought, well i'll try and figure it out myself! So i copied the source html from the BBC page but that just broke my template funnily enough.

I then found most of the answer on tips for new bloggers (the reason why i'm not just redirecting you there is because they don't add the little accessibility things that i wanted!). I've had a play in photoshop to get the little images looking right and hosted them on my Google Page Creator site (don't use these images on your own blog as i can't guarantee i won't move them at some point, get your own, it's FREE!). Also i needed a Facebook image as the facebook site doesn't have a nice one so I used the png file on this facebook icon request forum. I figured out the alt text using the source i'd viewed on the BBC site.

Also I've written basic html before but as you'll see, this code doesn't look like normal html. For example you use expr:href as opposed to href and instead of "quotes" either side of text you put 'apostrophes'. Well this is because it's in the blogger code as i was told by this new blogger blog site, I'm sure you'll find it thrilling...

Enough of how i've wasted the last two hours, here's what i did:
  1. Go into 'Template' > 'Edit HTML'. Save your current template somewhere so if you balls it up you can revert to the old one.
  2. Tick the check box 'Expand Widget Templates'.
  3. Find (ctrl + F) the bit of code that says <div class="'post-footer'"> and immediately after this put the following code: (change the red text for wherever you host the images)
    <!-- Start of social bookmarks. --><br/>
    Bookmark with:
    <a expr:href='"" + data:post.url + "&title=" + data:post.title' target='_blank' title='Post this story to Digg'><img alt='Digg' src=''/></a>
    <a expr:href='"" + data:post.url' target='_blank' title='Post this story to Technorati'><img alt='Technorati' src=''/></a>
    <a expr:href='"" + data:post.url + "&title=" + data:post.title' target='_blank' title='Post this story to Delicious'><img alt='' src=''/></a>
    <a expr:href='"" + data:post.url + "&title=" + data:post.title' target='_blank' title='Post this story to StumbleUpon'><img alt='Stumbleupon' src=''/></a>
    <a expr:href='"" + data:post.url + "&title=" + data:post.title' target='_blank' title='Post this story to reddit'><img alt='Reddit' src=''/></a>
    <a expr:href='"" + data:post.url + "&Title=" + data:post.title' target='_blank' title='Post this story to Facebook'><img alt='Facebook' src=''/></a>
    <!-- End of social bookmarks -->
  4. Save template
  5. Admire your handiwork
It's 7.29 on Saturday 13th October and England are about to play France in the World Cup so i'm not staying around here any longer, there's beer to drink!

Friday, 12 October 2007

Don't make me think

If you haven't read "Don't make me think" by Steve Krug and you work with websites please do and then return once you have!

The amount of websites that have no relation to the purpose they are trying to achieve is just ridiculous.

The sad thing is that you don't need any special equipment, skills or time really to improve a lot of these sites. Yes sometimes you can be restricted by dodgy CMS (Content Management Systems) or the page is built without CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) but for sites like the New Zealand one mentioned above all you have to do is rearrange the information better. It's that simple! Honest! I've tried it (and I'm a donut).

I finish with some wisdom from Krug's book:

"When a cat is dropped, it always lands on its feet, and when toast is dropped, it always lands with the buttered side facing down. I propose to strap buttered toast to the back of a cat; the two will hover, spinning, inches above the ground. With a giant buttered cat array, a high-speed monorail could easily link New York with Chicago." - John Frazee

I've just searched for this quote on Google and found a whole world of buttered cat paradox sites, scary...