Today at 19:00 CET I’ll be speaking at a local web meet-up about the web of data. There’ll be a live feed of the talk available and since I’ll be speaking in English you can tune it. This is a quick translation of the abstract posted on Slovenian sites:
Numerous services are emerging on the web that provide data in a computer friendly form through APIs, microformats, feeds,… Even your blog is actually a database as it syndicates its content via feeds and new posts trigger a ping you can subscribe to.
This fact opens new ways of collaboration – so called mash-ups, but this isn’t really a new concept. What’s new about it is the fact that we don’t use this word anymore as all the new services are some sort of a mash-up leveraging existing services. But accessing data is not the only way to leveraging these services – it’s becoming increasingly easy to create an application that lives in other applications without their approval through browser extensions and bookmarklets.
Marko Mrdjenovič from Zemanta will talk about what you can do to make your site more mash-up friendly and why that’s becoming increasingly important. As a developer I’ll also present what options you have and give a few tips on what to do and what to avoid when developing these kind of apps.
The first page I want to put to the test is the new page of the first and the biggest Slovenian airline. It was recently launched by my ex colleagues at Parsek as the second version to be made there. The first edition was designed and prepared in another agency and Parsek only did the backend while the new version is all Parsek. To be fair the biggest and the most important part — the reservation module — is still made by the french company Amadeus.
The new design tries to incorporate a leaner navigation with less elements even though it became wider, almost reaching the 1000px mark. The front page is much more sales oriented, displaying a lot of useful information. I can’t get past the color scheme that is really too dull. There are quite a few validation errors, the ones in HTML mostly due to non–escaped ampersands, while those in CSS are just sloppy coding without checking the validator.
I was surprised to see that some stuff doesn’t work well with Firefox 3 and Safari 3 even though the first one isn’t released yet (will be tomorrow) and the second one doesn’t have a lot of users in Slovenia. I’d still stick to what Yahoo! has to say in their Graded Browser support table for browser support.
I was positively surprised at how well some inside pages are designed down to the last dot and icon and negatively how bad the pages that “only” present CMS content look. I don’t know whose fault this is and I don’t even care, it doesn’t matter for the end user. I’m sure the guys at Parsek will check these pages out and try to make changes that will make them better. When I first saw the design while I was still at Parsek I wasn’t sure if the title on the right would work but now that I’m surfing the page I actually think it does. There is one problem there though – if you visit this page (screenshot) you’ll see that you can see its title “About us” four times in a very small area. It’s nice to know where you are but isn’t this a little bit too much?
The next big redesign is the biggest Slovenian bank which redesigned their site after quite a while. I don’t really know what to say about the redesign – the last one was horrendous so this one is easy on the eye. It too got wider and restructured so people can find relevant information easier. The home page lists all the products for residents and businesses so you can access them directly.
The most interesting thing about the new page is the fact that it now uses “friendly URLs”. And how utterly broken they are. You could also say this page is a textbook case for how wrong things can go when you don’t think about them. So you’ll have two pages, one at /nalozbe-v-vrednostne-papirje and the other at /nalozbe-v-vrednostne-papirje1. I have no idea how that tells you anything about how the content behind these links is different. It would tell you more if the first was prefixed with /residential and the second one with /businesses.
Another funny thing I noticed is how banners are designed to look as if they weren’t images but rather just HTML parts of the page. The reason I noticed is that I was on the Mac while checking the page and since font rendering is different it looks really weird. I think I might have seen the same difference on Vista with ClearType on.
A couple of Slovenian newspaper sites redesigned recently (today?). I got the news on Twitter. I’ll try to review what they’ve done1.
The design is boring with only the RSS icons giving it some color. It gives no feedback on links, the font on the front page is too small (11px) and it doesn’t hold its text–resizing well. The content is a bit hard to read with the font size at 12px, width of 600px (50em) and line–height at normal. There doesn’t seem to be any vertical rhythm applied. It’s also very hard to figure out where you are in the structure since some of the navigational elements seem to vary in color for no apparent reason.
The underlying code is disappointing. It’s really something that you would just delete and start over. It suffers from inline styles, divitis, classitis, inline scripts, validation errors (163 for the front page) and overall ugliness. The front page needs 67 requests and 724kB to load in 3.24 seconds (there are a few banners on the site though). Disappointing but expected is the fact that they don’t use Microformats but I was positively surprised that you can use OpenID to log in — I’ve never left a comment on local news sites because you need to register with each one. And I never do.
Posted by Tomaž Štolfa it’s actually not available yet through www.mladina.si but can be accessed directly through www.mladina.si/dnevnik/. It’s a nice page but with a shift in concept — the magazine is a weekly publication while the online edition will publish daily (or probably all the time). It too is wider than the previous version with a width of 1024 leaning on the left side of the browser.
The design is nice and gives good feedback in use. It’s made on a simple 5—column grid with the 5th column being used only in the head and for the banner. The only thing that is quite annoying is the banner at the top that moves the whole page down another 90px for no good reason (at least not for the users?). The content is much easier to read with a 12px font size, 1.5em line–height at 563px width (~47em). It also makes use of few different typeface which adds to the overall experience of surfing. Vertical rhythm in text is achieved through crappy code with paragraphs being spaced with <br /> elements.
The code is nothing to look at. It has 71 validation error on the front page with the first ones starting in the head element (unclosed meta elements). It too sports inline styles and scripts (which are at least wrapped in CDATA) and it too suffers from a heavy infection of divitis. It even has some <center> tags that I haven’t seen for quite some time now. The front page loads in 2.54 seconds for 58 requests and 582kB with all requests except Google Analytics going to the same domain. Microformats are nonexistent and so is OpenID — no need to have registration if you can’t leave comments2.
No need for a disclaimer anymore — I don’t know who designed or coded these pages and I don’t work at their competitors. back
WHAT? Isn’t this supposed to be the most open and future thinking newspaper? back
Source: ShutterstockA big Slovenian media house is announcing a relaunch of the biggest Slovenian web page (according to Alexa). Since they own two TV channels they’re advertising it with a short commercial that shows a glimpse of the new design. Another hint is a very very small, almost unreadable banner on their front page which “reads e-volution / evolution continues / next stage in  days”. What I want to know is whether it is to be an evolution in technology. That’s why I’ll list a few things I’d want if I was the client:
Semantic use of HTML (tableless layout)
The current page sports a fat table layout. The time of lame browsers and the need to create such a layout has passed and using semantic HTML for all the elements is the standard now. As a fan of XHTML Strict I’d also opt for that, allowing users to use the page as a source of content.
The current page is 800px wide with a skyscraper banner on the right. I think a wider default with a hint of elasticity (that would make it almost or completely useful on smaller screens) would be a great choice. If elastic is too difficult I’d opt for 960px.
The current homepage needs more than 180 request and more than 700kB to download. It takes about 5 seconds to do all this. I’m sure that with a little smarter use of CSS and image sprites these numbers could be much lower. A smart thing would be to move the static content to static.24ur.com so the browser could download all the resources faster. I’d also want the styles to be on the top and the scrips on the bottom. And since they use their own system to deploy banners I would expect them to use WEDJE to deploy them without stopping the site.
Since all the content on a certain page is actually a news feed I would want them to use the hAtom microformat, with hCard for people and hCalendar for events and the TV schedule also possible. There’s no need to use propriatary format in the age of interoperability.
I don’t think they should offer blogs, but it would be nice if they had a way to embed their content into blogs commenting on the current events. It would also be great if news posts would allow trackbacks so other people could see who blogged about the news.
With OpenID providers around every corner I really don’t see why anybody would want me to register on their page anymore.
I’ve launched a Slovenian OpenID site at openid.si. I’m looking for other Slovenian OpenID enthusiasts that would help build a meaningful center for all Slovenian OpenID users and developers.
It’s a long road that OpenID has to travel to become a serious player on the landscape of the internet. If you think it’s the right way to go and are willing to do something about it you’re welcome to join us – contact details at openid.si.
At the same time I would like to mention that we’ll be having (probably the first Slovenian) OpenID talk at Spletne urice on 18 April at 19:00. Sebastjan Trepca, the founder of Slovenian Orthodox Users of Python, developer of Marela and a web developer at Parsek, will be talking about what OpenID is and how to implement a client and a server.
If you want to read more about OpenID head over to openid.si to find a bunch of OpenID resource links. If you have more don’t hesitate to email.