A history log of milestones accomplished by Western Sydney based web development business; RMW Web Publishing.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Instant popularity

On the eve of the Apple iPhone release in America, I stayed up in the early hours of the morning working on an idea to help fellow web developers customise sites to work well on the massively hyped up iPod/phone device. After a few hours of coding, testing, setting up a domain and hosting and submission to a few search engines and social networking sites I thought my site would go unnoticed in the sea of iPhone related hype. Not so…

Within 2 days Google had trawled the new site and ranked it at number 2 for a search on "iphone tester" (currently #1) and many more sites had started linking to it. The site does not serve much purpose to anyone who isn't a website tester/developer, but it was enjoyable to make and very interesting to watch to see which sites appear in the referral logs.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Case Study: 1800 Reverse re-code

We initially started working with 1800 Reverse to maintain their existing website. After designing and setting up a few customer competitions we were able to see that behind-the-scenes the site was running on some very dated and messy code that was making any new development unduly time-consuming and testing unpredictable.

We approached 1800 Reverse with an offer to clean up the site and bring it up-to-date with today's web standards.

The updated version of the 1800 Reverse website was released this morning. We took some samples of the site just before it was updated.

Comparison:

To add some balance to the comparison we chose 2 different pages on the site. The most important page on the site, the homepage and a child page, RLinks which includes links to 1800 Reverse's partners. This second page is typical of most of the other pages on the site.

Homepage RLinks
Old New Old New
HTTP requests 21 9 (57%) 27 19 (30%)
Tables 7 0 14 0
Images 18 6 25 16
Lines of HTML 168 80 (52%) 253 114 (55%)
HTML size (bytes) 13557 3927 (71%) 16916 6521 (61%)
CSS size (bytes) 1948 4712 (141%) 1948 7199 (270%)
Files on the server 1283 (67.1 MB) 66 (12.5 MB)

HTTP requests

As researched by Yahoo! the number of file requests can have a huge impact on the speed of your site. Browsers are limited to the number of concurrent requests they can make (often 2 to 4 at a time). Each request must complete before another is made. Minimising the total number of requests that need to be made will allow the web browser to display your site quicker.

Tables

While the number of tables do not effect the speed of a site loading, they do add unnecessary mark-up when used for page layout. Using tables for layout was a common practice many years ago before web browser support for CSS layout had improved. Using tables also has the downside of restricting the layout of your content for each page. Using a linked stylesheet allows you the freedom to easily update the entire look of your site by changing a single file. The CSS Zen Garden is a perfect example of this. Every one of the 200+ designs use the same underlying HTML. If the base mark-up had been done with tables each design would have been restricted to using the same basic layout.

Images

Reducing the number of images helps reduce the number of HTTP requests but it may also reduce the overall size (bytes) of your site. By their nature image files can be quite large, so less is often better.

Lines of HTML

The number of lines in a file does not directly correspond to the size of the file, however it is a good indicator of how complex the code could be. Less mark-up makes it easy for other developers to read, change and maintain code. Less complex code around your data also increases the accessibility by non-visual page readers (this could be for people with disabilities or for a search engine bot).

HTML size

HTML should contain textural information. It also allows for full styling of the content, but this is a bad practice. Best practice is to include a minimal amount of semantic mark-up to add meaning to the content (headings, paragraphs and emphasis are good examples). The size of a single file often depends on how much content it contains. The larger the file, then longer it takes to download. In this comparison where the displayed content has not changed you can see that there was a lot of extra code that was in the wrong place or not needed at all.

CSS size

CSS files store the presentational information used to style the look and feel of the site. The same CSS file can be used on multiple pages which allows the browser to load the same downloaded copy of the file on subsequent loads (caching). When using a cached copy the files does not need downloading from the site again, meaning the page loads much quicker.

Files on the server

This statistic does not effect the load times of the site for users. It is shown here purely to show you how many files and how much disc space (hosting providers charge extra for more storage) was/is needed for the 1800 Reverse site. Fewer files also makes it much quicker to find what you are looking for when maintaining the site.

Tests done between 11:30 am and 12pm on 14 Dec 2006 using Web Page Analyzer - 0.961 - from Website Optimization.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

C. I. Sales & Service

C. I. Sales & Service is a local business specialising in the sale and service of measurement equipment. C. I. Sales & Service was referred to RMW Web Publishing by one of our first clients clients, Syndian. C. I. Sales & Service provide Syndian with equipment used in the process of their food products.

RMW Web Publishing created a website for the business which includes information about the business, it's products and services and a form for customer contact. As some pages were quite long, we designed a simple, but exciting, method to scroll through a long page. Clicking on a link at top of the products page slides the page down to the section of interest, clicking "top" whisks you back to the menu. A specials page includes sale items and will be updated regularly.

The site also uses clean URLs which not only make addresses on the site easy to remember and say aloud, it also allows the site back-end to change technologies without the need to change everybody's bookmarks to the site. But most importantly search engines love clean URLs, especially related human readable English words like on the new C. I. Sales & Service site.

We would like to thank Jurgen and Tracy at C. I. Sales & Service for their help in making the site and Amal at Syndian for referring them to us, thank you.

Kurrajong Rural Fire Bridage - updated

Over the weekend we released major updates to the Kurrajong RFS website. Following is the release news article the site:

To coincide with our 60th Anniversary celebrations the KurrajongRFS.org.au had a major overhaul. The site is no-longer a standard blue Blog template, it now has it's own unique look and feel. The site also now has 3 columns (if your screen is wide enough) to show you more information without scrolling. The calendar is now larger making it easier to read and pictures submitted by members are now pulled in to the homepage and other sections of the site.

Along with the regular news updates, sections have been added where information about specific areas can be kept. A section on Kurrajong Village aims to become a good source of information about all things Kurrajong. The Kurrajong Rural Fire Service section will hold information about the brigade, while the About this site section instructs members how they can use the site and contribute to it's contents.

We encourage all members (past and active) to check the site regularly to keep informed of the brigades activities and help expand our online community.

We hope the members of the bridage enjoy their new site and look forward to expanding it with them.

Monday, October 23, 2006

SILVER AWARD - Mainland Building Solutions

The Mainland Building Solutions website has been awarded a silver medal by the official judges of the Australian Web Designers Network. The award is judged on the following categories: Graphics, Artwork, Layout, Navigability, Functionality and Originality.

An illustration of a silver medal. Dated 2006

RMW Web Publishing would like to thank John at Mainland for the opportunity to re-design there online presence and hope they are getting the most from their new website.

Webdesigners.net.au is a comprehensive directory of web designers connecting buyers of web services with its members on a national level. With over $1,000,000 in new contracts going through the online quoting system each year, webdesigners.net.au is the leading directory of web designers in Australia.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Mainland Building Solutions

Early this week (Monday evening) we launched a new look for Mainland Building Solutions. Not only did the look of the site change but the staff at Mainland now have the ability to easily change the content of the sites page, and new pages, at anytime through an easy to use WYSIWYG interface.

The new site is built using the latest Web Standards and clever client-side scripts to enhance the design of the site. The practise of unobtrusive DOM scripting and semantic markup progressively enhances the usability of the site while not restricting browsers that do use Javascript. Scroll up and down on the site to see the navigation follow your viewport allows you to quickly jump to a different page in the site. A modified version of the Sidebar Slider makes this possible. Something a little less obvious is that the three columns of the site are of equal height. This is achieved by using Projectseven.com's PVII Equal Height CSS Columns script. The front page features a fading photo side-show script created by Steven Chipman. We also added our own script to resize the width of the site dependent on the size of the browser window to present the main content better at any screen size. We would like to thank all the script developers for making these additions well documented and freely available.

The site is hosted here in Australia on our new hosting platform that shows real-time tracking of visitors and statistics on which search engine keywords people are using to find the site. To assist in direct traffic mainlandbuildingsolutions.com.au, mainlandbuildingsolutions.net.au also point to the site.

RMW Web Publishing has enjoyed working with Mainland on this project and hopes to continually develop the site to suit the need of their business.

Mainland Building Solutions is a quality building company operated by professionals who focus on providing quality products and services on time and within budget. Mainland Building Solutions specialise in all facets of the remedial repair industry whose operations are supported by a highly credentialed and experienced team.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Kurrajong Rural Fire Bridage

RMW Web Publishing's lead web developer is a volunteer member of the rural bush fire brigade in Kurrajong, which located west of Sydney. The brigade recently set-up a computer with internet access for it's members. Many of the members do not have internet access at home, so having a community based connection is a great way to allow people access to the web. The brigade also has a lot of members that do not attend the weekly meetings but still have a strong interest in the brigade and it's activities. To better serve all the members and other members of the community a member of the brigade set-up a free blog which would be used to update visitors on the latest events. Unfortunately a blog is not the best tool for displaying date centric content. So our developer took on the task of building a site that would best suite the brigade.

It's early days yet, but in our spare time we are working on a new site that will be quite functional and allow members to update the site's content with ease. We have already began setting up an environment from which the site will expand. So far we have brought a domain name kurrjongrfs.org.au and provided hosting. We have also setup a partnership with Google to provide email storage for members with the ability to use Gmail's excellent online webmail package allowing members to access email from any internet connected computer. We are also using Google Calendar which allows multiple members to add events of interest in an easy to use interface. This information is then shown on the site making it easy for users to see, at a glance, what is planned.

What good is a site that can not be found? Currently the Kurrajong RFS site does not appear in either of the big 3's (Google, Yahoo! & MSN) search results. RMW Web Publishing has chosen to case study the process of getting the new site indexed and log the process of climbing the search result ladder to a number 1 position. You can follow along with this study by subscribing to the shared Google calendar.

Add Google calendar button

We look forward to releasing a new site for the brigade and the Kurrajong community soon.