Posts in the "Google" Category

Launchpad, Google’s Data Center Networks, YouTube Newswire, Real-time-data in Trends + more – Latest from Google #6

Summer has come here to the northern hemisphere and the world keeps on spinning with interesting things. :-)

I’ve spent my last time organizing a week for mentors and startups this fall in Finland for the Google Developers Launchpad program, which is outlined below, and we also have news on handling Revenge Porn in Search, real-time data in Trends, a peak into Google’s networks and more!

This is part 6 in the Last Week at Google series.

Continue reading

Latest from Google #5 – Brilliant Minds conference, YouTube Gaming, Google Diversity numbers & more

Lots of things happening both in the world of Google and in the technology sector as well – and that goes especially for the Nordics region! In this blog posts I outline a few of the events, and at the end I always have a quick list of interesting things – basically, scroll down fast if you just want links right away. Otherwise, you are more than welcome to read the entire thing. :-)

This is part five in the Last Week at Google series.

Continue reading

Joining Google!

Time to announce my new job: I’m joining Google! My role will be Developer Relations Program Manager for the Nordics.

Continue reading

Releasing Inline Code Finder as a Google Chrome extension

I put a lot of time into ensuring web interface code quality, both for code in projects I work in and in doing code audits for other web sites. One of the best ways to find undesired inline styles, inline JavaScript events and javascript: links, I believe, is my Inline Code Finder extension and now it’s available for Google Chrome as well!

Continue reading

SEO gone overboard

The hunt for getting a good search engine ranking affects more and more companies. A higher ranking equals more visitors equals (most likely) more customers. More customers, in turn, equals more money, which is what business is about.

But sometimes, the hunt hurts the quality of a web site.

Continue reading

What would make you switch search engine?

So, you all have your favorite search engine, right? And probably also the tools/approach you prefer to search with it; for instance, a text field in your favorite web browser, perhaps a web browser toolbar or have it set up through Quicksilver. What I’m interested in, though, is what would make you switch search engine? What would make you use another one?

Testing Google Calendar

As of recently, I’ve had enough of trying to keep track of appointments and other assorted obligations. Fredrika writes things for hand in her little secret calendar, which means there’s no way I can stay on top of things going on or actually double-check when I’m not actually in the same room as here.

This led to me starting to look around for web-based calendar services, where one can enter data and it will be available from any computer at anytime, and also get reminders. Just as I was testing some services, Google were kind enough to apply to my needs and released Google Calendar.

Google Calendar has got the look and feel of GMail and other Google applications and you can just start using it with your existing Google account.

Different views

Google Calendar supports five different views:

Day
A picture of Google Calendar's Day view
Week
A picture of Google Calendar's Week view
Month
A picture of Google Calendar's Month view
Next 4 Days
A picture of Google Calendar's Next 4 Days view
Agenda
A picture of Google Calendar's Agenda view

Creating events

It is very easy to create an event: just click the desired date/time and enter a subject. You can then drag and drop existing events to move them to another date/time.

A picture of creating an event in Google Calendar

Notifications

It’s possible to get a notification through an alert box, e-mail or a SMS text message. I would love that last option, but it seems like it’s only available for US citizens.

Sharing

You can also share your calendar and events with others, which is a great thing! This lets you have your own calendar, share some or all events and then also color-code your and other calendars’ events to easy distinguish whose appointment it really is. Your calendar with the events labeled as public is made available at a public address, and there’s also a private address you can use in other calendar applications.

Missing features

I would love some way to synchronize the information with a PDA or cell phone and be able to use it offline.

 

All in all, a great service that is yet another step for me from being dependant on just one specific computer.

Google Blog Search or Technorati?

When doing a web search and your search engine of choice (Google, for most of you, I presume) doesn’t return as accurate or useful results as you had hoped, you might decide that you just want search blogs. Reasons for this can be because blogs usually contain very interesting information, comments on the information and also that they are normally very up-to-date.

The way I see it, there are two major tools for searching blogs: Technorati and Google Blog Search. Google seems to be a little faster, although Technorati has really picked up lately. Technorati also offers ways to see how popular that blog is that contains the information you searched for while you also know that the information that is most up-to-date will be amongst the top results.

Personally, I use Technorati to see how many people link to me and which the latest links are. I never use Google Blog Search.

Do you use any? If you do, which one?

How to get a good search engine ranking

With the humble title of this post, I guess I really need to add that these ways mentioned below are the ones I’ve experienced to be very reliable to get a good search engine ranking. Naturally it varies a lot, but I get somewhere between 28 – 45% of my visitors from pure Google searches, out of just having a high ranking (and sometimes for terms that amaze me :-)). These are my advices:

Semantic code
Make sure you write semantically correct code, meaning that you need to use the correct element for the right situation. It is all about how you mark the words you are using, and how and in what context you want them to be interpreted.
Friendly URLs

Make sure you have URLs with a good descriptive value, as opposed to one being made up of just a lot of parameters. There are different tools and settings to achieve this in most, if not all, web development environments. For instance, these two links both lead to the same web page:

This is a good URL:

http://www.robertnyman.com/2005/11/07/the-ultimate-getelementsbyclassname/

and this is a bad one:

http://www.robertnyman.com/index.php?p=256

Get mentioned
If you get mentioned with good words in an appropriate context, especially from a web site that has a good PageRank, it will help push you up the search engine list.

 

These are the only tips I can give you; basically, it’s just about good web development practises and maintaining good relations with other web site owners.

I’m sure there are good SEO companies out there, but the ones I’ve come across have all been unprofessional and/or been using very suspicious methods. And as soon Google update their algorithms, there’s a big chaos when some SEO’s dubious work fail, since some of their tricks have been found out and taken care of. Then, naturally, it backfires so their customers get a very bad search engine ranking.

Just do as I suggest above; code properly and you will be safe. Look around to see how good search engine ranking most web developing blogs get, just because they know how to implement a web site in a correct manner.

Come on, give us a bad example

Sure, but only since you asked for it. Recently the web site http://www.larmdirekt.se/ was brought to my attention. If you navigate to their web site and disable CSS in your web browser (Ctrl/Command + Shift + s is one way to do it if you use the Web Developer extension in Firefox), alternatively view the source code of the page.

In the footer, you will then find a link with the text “y”, which leads to the page http://www.larmdirekt.se/laarm/ . Make sure to turn off JavaScript in your web browser and navigate to that page and you will not believe your eyes: a little link farm. If you surf around those links you will, amongst others, find the names of some fairly large Swedish companies, and the best thing of it all: the name of the SEO company in the title bar.

 

So, go check out the code of your own web site right now, or ask your SEO what methods they use.

 

Read more about search engine optimization

A war of personalization

A while ago I read Garret Rogers’ post The personalization war, which in part inspired me to write this introduction to different personalized start pages. So what are those, really?

The main purpose of such a start page is for you to get a good and easy overview of a lot of things, including the feeds you follow. Different services also offer different gadgets that you can use, such as seeing your e-mail inbox. Naturally, one of the most useful parts of this is that you have access to the same start view and information wherever you are and whatever computer you are using.

The ones I’ve tested are:

Google Personalized Home
A picture of Google Personalized Home
Netvibes
A picture of Netvibes
Live/Start
A picture of Live
My Yahoo!
A picture of My Yahoo!

Most of them are, of course (sigh…), in a beta state, so I haven’t really taken that into my observations. I’ve tested them in different categories, and I name a winner for each and finally, a total winner. Live/Start is developed by Microsoft, but I’m not sure if Start will still be around and if they’re putting all their energy into Live now. Both are pretty much the same service right now, though.

Design

Google Personalized Home’s service looks pretty much like all of the other Google services, as opposed to Netvibes and Live/Start who have got very lean interfaces. Netvibes has also got a nice distinct background and borders around its parts to easier tell them apart. My Yahoo! offers a lot of themes, and each and every one of them almost makes me barf.

Winner: It’s a tie between Netvibes and Live/Start.

Usability

All of them, except My Yahoo!, rely heavily on an AJAX approach with drag and drop to position your different parts wherever you feel like. Netvibes and Live/Start also offers the possibility to expand and collapse different parts, where Netvibes also has links for expanding/collapsing all parts. Netvibes is the only one showing you a number of unread posts for each of your feeds.

Google Personalized Home and My Yahoo! only present direct links to the posts in your feeds, whereas Netvibes and Live/Start present the text for each feed when a link is clicked, together with the other posts for the same feed, and there you can choose to expand or collapse the text for all of the feed’s posts.

Netvibes and Live overlays a “page/window/layer (yeah, I’m sorry for that word :-))” that fills the entire web browser window when the links are clicked, as opposed to Start that just opens a small one. Start’s behavior is definitely the one of these I prefer.

Live/Start also offers small arrows after each post in a feed which is a direct link to the post in question. This would have been great, if they haven’t added the functionality to these links to automatically open a new window. Extremely annoying. This is 2006, ok? People want to choose themselves if they want to open a link in the same window, a new window or a new tab; don’t force a behavior on users. And if you’re so worried most users won’t get, just offer this as a setting then.

I wish Netvibes would also have these arrow links, but naturally not with the behavior mentioned above that Live/Start have. In the overlay that is opened up, Netvibes’ also dreadfully opens new windows when each direct link to another web page is clicked. Stop it! Now!

Settings-wise, Live/Start is the winner with offering you how many columns you want to use, from one up to four columns. My Yahoo! is the only other service offering this, with the choice of two or three columns. My wish is that all of them should really offer a way to see the text for each feed post in the same view when it’s clicked, and also to expand or collapse all posts for a certain feed or the entire web page. I also wish Netvibes would add a way to mark all posts for all feeds read.

Another thing that blows my top is that the sign in-link on Live for a long time didn’t work in Firefox. Then they fixed it, but apparently added some new update, so now it’s broken again. It’s just a link, dammit, how hard can it be? And the number of dead links and things of inconsistency one stumbles on while using My Yahoo! are too numerous to mention.

If it hadn’t been for Live/Start forcing me to use a Microsoft Passport account, I would’ve declared a tie between Live/Start (because of being able to choose what number of columns to have, and Start also for its nice reading window) and Netvibes (for its unread items feature). However, because of that, it tripped Live/Start at the finishing line.

Winner: Netvibes.

Accessibility

I turned off JavaScript, and not surprisingly, none of them had a full proper fallback. Netvibes and Live/Start didn’t even render any content nor give me a message saying that I had to have JavaScript enabled. Most of the links didn’t work either for Live/Start when tabbing to them and then pressing Enter. Google Personalized Home rendered the content fine but told me that I had to have JavaScript enabled, and has a text saying that it now works on mobile devices (I haven’t verified this). My Yahoo! kind of worked without JavaScript except for some parts.

Winner: My Yahoo!

Importing/exporting OPML

The most efficient way to use your feeds in different services is to have them categorized in an OPML file and then just import them. Netvibes and Live/Start offer importing as well as exporting of OPML files, although, for some, reason, Netvibes didn’t work correctly with my OPML file that seems to work fine for all the other services on the web. The problem was that I could indeed import the feeds but then the grouping went wrong so I could never see the content of any feed or add it to my page.

Google Personalized Home and My Yahoo don’t offer neither of these, which, to me, is shocking.

Winner: Live/Start, for working flawlessly with feeds.

Gadgetry

Google Personalized Home offers you seeing your GMail inbox (surprise), My Yahoo! offers you to see your Yahoo! Mail (another shocker) and Live offers you to see your Hotmail (yeah, I’m trembling with excitement now…). However, Live also has a number of other gadgets for you to use, where Netvibes seems to have the best ones. Netvibes have, amongst others:

  • Mail (GMail, Yahoo! Mail or any other POP mail you want to add)
  • Webnote
  • To Do List
  • Delicious

Winner: Netvibes.

Code quality

All of them have validation errors, but Netvibes seemed to be the only one that didn’t have well-formedness errors or invalid elements. Google Personalized Home and My Yahoo! didn’t even have a doctype. Semantically, they were all pretty poor…

Winner: Netvibes.

The winner is…

If you’ve mustered enough strength to read this far, you have probably guessed that it is: Netvibes. Overall, they offer the most stable, reliable, usable and customizable service. While it’s far from perfect, it’s definitely my pick of the pack. Are you using any of these, or some other personalized start page service? Let me know!

 

Related posts