[Author's addendum: As of September 30, 2010, Google will discontinue this service. According to their blog post, Page2RSS can perform the same service as Google Reader's "track changes" and can even convert your already existing feeds.]
I’ve been a big Google Reader fan for years now, and I wanted to point out a feature that may not get as much recognition as others. Sometimes you want to add a feed for a site that just doesn’t have a feed. Surely there’s a better way to look for updates than bookmarking and (ir)regularly scheduled visits, right?
Turns out you can add a site to Google Reader even without a true RSS feed available. Google will watch that page for you and generate a Reader item when an update is found.
For example, I want to keep an eye on OIT Current News. I click into Reader and “Add a subscription” like I normally would, then add the normal URL of the OIT Current News page.
Google tells me, “http://oit.ua.edu/news/current.html does not provide a feed. We can create a feed for you, notifying you when the content on the page updates. (Learn more.)”
So far it’s worked brilliantly; I’ve gotten Reader items for each of the last three OIT Current News updates. Just another way Google can help bring the web to you!
Our UA WordPress Theme project is featured today on CollegeWebEditor.com, an industry-leading blog on higher education web, marketing and PR. Thanks to Karine Joly for the opportunity to share our experience on this project with her audience.
I wanted to share the following independent review of UA.edu, which was recently conducted by EDU Checkup, a higher education blog and review site. The review was very positive – in fact the reviewer (Nick DeNardis) tweeted that UA.edu is “one of the highest scoring sites on @educheckup”, and called it “rock star work” (http://twitter.com/nickdenardis/status/5894882926).
Overall, UA.edu received a 98% on visuals, 99% on code, and 93% for information, for an overall score of 97%. While it’s certainly nice to receive such a high score, the most gratifying part of the review is to see an impartial observer pick up on many of the intentional design decisions made during this process and appreciate the rationale and the work that went into those choices.
The review, in video form, is here:
Also, UA.edu is currently featured on eduStyle.net:
UPDATED 11/23: As a follow-up to his review, DeNardis blogged about his review of UA.edu on the eduStyle Blog, here:.
In Web Communications, we are big proponents of adhering to Web Standards as we develop and manage web sites. This is an important area to be well-versed in for web designers, because web standards have evolved from being a grassroots effort into being a pretty commonly-accepted platform on which to build web sites. But what are web standards, truly? That’s a challenge to communicate and educate.
There is a new resource called WaSP InterAct that encompasses a lot of the web standards approach, and it’s a free open-source resource for all to use and share. You may already know a lot of this, but there’s a lot of good information there that might be helpful. And even if you’re an old pro at this, it might be worth a look to refresh yourself in not only WHAT you do, but WHY you do it.
The curriculum is available in the form of open-source, independent study courses at http://interact.webstandards.org/curriculum/.
This week we’ve launched a major update to the UA Web Guide at http://webguide.ua.edu. While the Web Guide has previously been positioned as a standard-setting document for all University web sites, this update serves to present it as a practical toolkit for developing and managing web sites at UA. There are still minimum standards and requirements that must be followed of course, subject to the UA Web Policy, but this revision hopefully will make the Web Guide more useful for the University community as a whole by focusing on the practical process of building a web site at UA.
The Web Guide contains information about kicking off and managing a web project, design standards and recommendations, resources such as the web templates and web images library, information on accessibility and usability, and other tutorials and resources.
We see the Web Guide being a much more fluid, regularly-updated toolkit going forward, and there are more resources we have on the drawing board to add to as we go. Comments and suggestions are welcome on how we can help improve it and make it more useful to you or the University community in general.
A List Apart has just posted a pretty interesting article on zebra striping and its effectiveness among users. A study was setup to test whether or not striping the rows of tables was as really useful as we make it out to be. Considering that I used ALA’s previous article on zebra striping several years ago, I found the results a little surprising.
Essentially, the experiment found that zebra striping tables did not improve the accuracy or speed of finding information in the table. However, one thing stood out to me:
Finally, and perhaps most interestingly, a number of participants in the study spontaneously reported using their finger, on or over the computer screen, to follow down columns and across rows. Other participants used their mouse to highlight rows of interest. These people were, in effect, creating their own “temporary” zebra striping. So we may be reducing the burden on our users if we do the zebra striping for them.
What this told me is that there is a simple, easy answer to whether or not zebra striping can be helpful. Use hover styles. If the user is already using their mouse to highlight rows of interest, why not do it for them? You can break it down even further by highlighting the individual cell if you have a lot of rows and columns. I think it comes down to what is visually appealing is easier to work with, even though it may not technically improve accuracy or speed.
Here is how I handle my zebra striping.
If you want a bunch of different examples to choose from, here’s a great list.
Back in April, I participated in a survey conducted by A List Apart. The main purpose of the questionnaire was to collect information on aspects of web design jobs such as salary, education, type of organization, benefits, and even perceived biases. To date, no one has ever conducted this kind of research on the web design field which makes the report the first of its kind. In the end, over 33,000 responses were collected and have produced some interesting results.
Download the survey (PDF).
This is an excerpt from a short, interesting post on 37 Signals that Brian passed on to me a while back (thanks Brian). It doesn’t sound particularly important at face value, but when you think about this philosophy as applied to iterative design, it makes a lot of sense.
“This is all your app is: a collection of tiny details.”
That’s the best descriptive I’ve heard of any product, project, person, or object. A collection of tiny details.
Details pile up. One influences another. One often makes another possible (or impossible).
Anyway, this really resonates with me, and helps keep sight of how every little thing we work on can add up to something that makes a difference.