Responsive Design

I’ve heard a lot of questions about response to design recently, so I wanted to write a quick article to address those questions. First of all: what is responsive design?

To put it simply, responsive web design is a style or framework of web design intended to provide A great user experience regardless of the device. In other words it does not matter if you are accessing a website from your phone, tablet, or a desktop computer; your experience in each case will be tailored to your device, so that it looks good and so that you can find the information that you’re looking for quickly.

What is the difference between adaptive design and responsive design?

This is where it gets a little bit complicated. In an adaptive design, the developer has implemented multiple fixed width layouts, whereas in a responsive design, they used multiple fluid grid layouts. It’s a subtle difference, but it has a large impact on the results.

responsive design

What kind of websites should use responsive design?

There’s a great quote by Jeffrey Veen that I’ve included below.

“Day by day, the number of devices, platforms,
and browsers that need to work with your site grows.
Responsive web design represents a fundamental shift
in how we’ll build websites for the decade to come.”
– Jeffrey Veen

In other words, everyone should use responsive web design! Whether you’re marketing for small businesses that need to appear up in local Google searches, multinational companies that only want to appear for a very small and targeted set of keywords, an advertising agency trying to get it’s name out there, or anything in between, you want to provided user experience to your users. Longtail Marketing, a company that provides search engine optimization and website development consulting services for local businesses, is a great example. Even though local businesses often times don’t have the budget to rebuild a custom website from scratch, they usually don’t need to. The real benefit is being visible on the Internet, rather than having a slick looking website. You can find them at http://longtail-marketing.com

What are the benefits?

Aside from the benefits to the users themselves and the fact they’ll be able to see your content clearly on any device, there are other tangible benefits as well. Users are more likely to recommend the site that is clear and easy to navigate than one that is not. Many authorities on the web reward websites for having a good user experience and responsive or adaptive design by including them hiring their results were making an easier to share.

In Summary

The key take away here is that the web is evolving and that all businesses, regardless of their size or Jack two, should evolve with it. Turnkey website builders like Weebly and Square Space make it easier than ever to get a website that looks really good without having to hire an expensive advertising agency or development team. As mentioned above, the real value in having a website in the next 10 years will not be in its design, But rather how easy it is for users to find your web presence, navigate the website, and communicate with your brand. Good luck!

 

Review: Professional ASP.NET

You can always rely on Wrox to come up with great ASP books, and this is no exception.

Now, if asked I would more than likely say I was an O’Reilly fan. Most of my technical books seem to have an animal on the front, but take a quick glance at my bookshelves and you will be able to see a close second would be big red books with unattractive faces all over them.

This seems to be the trademark of Wrox for now, I guess they are saying “these people are so ugly they don’t get out much, so they must know what they are talking about”.

Minging they may be, but they do know their stuff.

The book is well written, both from a technical and readability standpoint, and this is where they have a slight edge over O’Reilly. Some O’Reilly authors have brilliantly readable writing styles, but many “Over tech” and the books become dry tomes that are about as fun to read as a telephone directory printed in 5pt type.

They have coped well with the fact ASP.NET is such a new and constantly updating subject, and the examples lead you gently through the subject matter. Thankfully, they have also recognised that the main subject is cool enough without stuffing the remainder of the book with acronym-tastic examples to make it fully “buzzword compliant” as in some of this books stable mates (professional JSP an example).


Professional ASP.NET

professional asp.net

As a taster, you can preview the first chapter on the Wrox site as a PDF.

 

Rating: :OD

I give it one big nosed grinning smiley

 

Review: Commerce Server 2000 Programming

My initial reaction when the book landed on my desk was “Oh .. my .. God, Look at the size of this book – look how many authors there are! This must be a big subject” and believe me, I was right.

book cover

Now, I doubt very much you will be able to learn everything you need to know just by reading this one book, and there doesn’t seem to be that many out there to choose from, but the book does cover the subject comprehensively. Perhaps too comprehensively. As I was reading it I had the nagging feeling perhaps it should have been split into a smaller, idiots style quick start book and another fatter reference book.

Ordinarily I breeze through technical books, enjoying reading them from cover to cover. Due to my train commute I get through a couple of books of this type a month without any bother. This particular book I had to make a real effort, I found it very hard work. Was it because the subject matter was difficult? No, is it badly written? Not at all. So why did I have to force myself to continue with it?

I have thought a lot about why and all I can think the reason could be is because it doesn’t flow. Often books have a noticeable beginning, middle and end, where as this book seems to just cover the subjects it needs to. Also it is quite dry, others in the Wrox family inject humor and colorful examples to liven things up. The examples don’t follow on as you would expect and are not inspiring either, so in the end I found it lifeless and inconsistent.

Does it fulfil its purpose?

Yes and no.

It does cover the subject very well, and it does show you how to get up and running. Even I, under motivated as I was, managed to get the software installed and something going. I doubt I really needed the book and could probably have done so (perhaps in a longer time frame) with the Microsoft documentation. Because I found the book dull I gave up on following the examples. Probably a good job judging from mailing lists and news groups as most people have had problems getting them to work.

Summary

I would recommend it as a reference book. There is not a lot of selection out there, and the format does allow you to dip into the subjects you need. This is definitely NOT a book to take on holiday or to read in quiet moments, unless you have real problems sleeping.

Score

(:O’ – half a smile

 

ASP.NET HTML Editor Review: RichTextBox

Most large web sites now include some method for site copy to be created dynamically, with all but the larger (ie. higher budget) installations using a custom content management system.

There are many good reasons for this, one near the top of the list is usually cost savings (not having a web agency update copy while charging by the hour), another is ease of maintenance for the client (not having multiple-hour turnaround).

When developing these content editing interfaces, some way must be given for the editor to enter textual copy. Traditionally this takes the form of some kind of text box. While the text box solution is great for the developer and fine to produce plain unformatted text, not so good for a client that is expecting to be able to add bold, italics, indents, bullets and images.

RichTextBox to the rescue

ASP.NET developers can now add rich HTML formatted text entry as easy as adding a simple text box, using the RichTextBox ASP.NET server control. The RichTextBox control allows the user to insert links, images, bullets, change fonts, etc, all in a familiar word-like manner.

While this sort of functionality has been becoming more and more common a sight, especially since Microsoft included much of the underlying technology in later versions of IE, this product wraps the functionality up in an extremely easy to implement package. It really is almost a case of dragging the control onto your ASP.NET page to get up and running.

Choices

You have a choice of three options when looking to use the RichTexBox.

First is a free download for evaluation purposes. This version is fully featured and the license is limited to 30 days. A message appears in the users work space to identify the control as the trial version.

Next up is the version most developers would look to use initially which is the version intended for a single  web site (“standard” version). At $89.95 the control can be yours for less than an hour of a heavy weight contractor would cost!

For those who have really fallen for the contol in a big way there is the “Professional” license. This allows use across multiple web sites and is also the choice for deployment in web farm installations.

Alternatives

As noted earlier, the actual technology is not uncommon, so what of the alternatives.

First alternative is obviously to code your own. Well, as the cost is only just short of 90 bucks (US) which is just short of 60 uk pounds I don’t think there are a heck of a lot of people who would see that as economic, especially when you add in the time for testing and documenting the thing.

You could buy one of the Java or Director developed browser components. This is really the only option if your users might need to use Netscape as RichTextBox is IE only. This cross-browser arena is one that developers are giving a lot of attention.

What about competitors to RichTextBox? Well, checking out ASP.NET control gallery there are a few. I can only talk from initial impressions, mainly going by their web sites, number of downloads and client lists, but none seem to be as “mature” as RichTextBox. Only time will tell if any become a serious competitor.

Check out the RichTextBox site and you will see there are some pretty serious names using the control (including Microsoft, Intel and Sony – nice!), along with the fact it has been tested by hundreds of beta testers then downloaded and used thousands of times, this gives me a fair amount of confidence it will work as advertised.

Implementation and development

After all this, the real proof is how good it is in action. Patience is not my strong suit but thankfully I didn’t need any – using the example code supplied I had it up and working both on my development box and live well within 5 minutes. This included wiring it in to an example data entry form.

Once you have a simple page up and working you need to know how to tweak the defaults to your liking. Well, tweakers are well served. There are enough options and variations of features in the design time environment to keep anyone happy.

Technical support is through email and online, with sample code, a peer-to-peer discussion group and a constantly updated knowledgebase.

Conclusion

If your clients need to update site content and you can live with only supporting IE then this is definitely the product for you.

 

 

ASP.NET Hosting and ISPs – asp.net hosting sql hosting

ASP.NET hosting can be a real gamble. Actually it is very much like playing poker – as much bluffing as gambling goes on in the web hosting and ISP game! When you are gambling your reputation with a client then the hosting gamble stakes are even higher.

I would like this article to be interactive – if you disagree with my recommendations or have another suggestion please do let me know then everyone can benefit.

Recommendation 1: For the power user with a decent budget – Orcsweb

My first recommendation is Orcsweb. They are an established Microsoft-specialist with excellent support and a proven platform as used by Aspalliance and other community sites. They even have a web farm option on their shared hosting. If you can afford their fees then they are definately my first choice. If you have the traffic then you will be making the revenue so it’s a simple enough choice and you won’t regret it.

But what if you are not going to be getting that traffic or revenue?

Recommendation 2: For those staring out, experimenting or just want a portfolio site – webhost4life

I have been with webhost4life a while now and recommended them to lots and lots of people. Not only have they got more bundled features than most hosting providers, not only are they fast enough and helpful enough, not only do they have everything you need for hosting ASP.NET and SQL Server 2000 web sites, even ASP.NET version 1.1 .. not only that but they are only $10 a month. You can’t say you can’t afford that now can you? :O) Now, that affiliate link? I would recommend them even if they didn’t have an affiliate scheme, the fact they do makes it even easier to recommend them and because I HAVE recommended them my next years hosting is paid for – my affiliate cash more than covers a full years hosting just because I recommended them when I would have anyway!! :O)

Dedicated hosting – OneAndOne or UKFast

I am in a bit of a fix now. My requirements have outgrown shared hosting but I am not bringing in enough revenue yet to justify a really reliable kick arse server. After shopping around I found quite a few $99 dedicated servers – looked a bit cheap and nasty to be honest. I got warned away from serverbeach – suffice to say this one person said he had a very bad experience where he was made to feel like a criminal through no fault of his own. That left me with a choice of two, untested by myself but recommended to me by others. When I know more I will update this article. The two recommended to me were OneAndOne – a German company and UKFast based, I think, in Manchester.