UDM Blog – Web Accessibility, Development, Marketing and Trends

Keeping you informed on the lastest web development and accessibility information.

Archive for February, 2009

E-commerce for small retailers gets more competitive than ever.

Monday, February 16th, 2009

I market for a few small business e-commerce sites and have been doing so for over a year.  Things were humming along nicely until September 2008.  ROI was rising month after month.  Then the credit crisis news hit in earnest.  My sales took a 25% dive.  Now it’s February and we are looking at 40% less in sales from the same period last year.    Most of my client’s are well-known brand product based and I’ve used product feeds to get traffic.   Based on the analytics I am looking at, a lot more people are window shopping compared to last year.  Also, please are visiting the comparison sites and are willing to surf around and take extra time to find the best bargain possible.

Last year submitting to the product feeds, having a good price and free shipping was good enough.  This year it’s having a rock bottom price, free shipping(but upping the minimum purchase so a profit margin is retained) and funneling more marketing dollars to the comparison sites.    There are some major players in the industries that I market for and these sites have gotten very aggressive with pricing.  Offering 20% off coupons and similar.  This makes a small retailers job of competing difficult at best.  Small retailers can’t lower pricing to the minimum, offer free shipping and offer coupons.  That is a recipe for zero profits.

Build it right the first time, every time.

Monday, February 9th, 2009

I recently had a small project that went absolutely out of control because the client always had the attitude of “if there’s a 5 minute approach, and a 15 minute approach, take the 5 minute approach every time”.

Sure that sounds nice. And everyone wants to save a few dollars on design and development, especially in this economy, but it’s also possible to be penny-wise (as this client was) and pound foolish.

Cliches aside, what this client wanted to do was to integrate several third party applications into a single platform. They wanted an ecommerce engine, social networking engine, forum software, blogging software and a few other common admin apps like CRM and consolidated invoicing system. The problems with integrating the application code were not trivial, but doable. The real problem is that each and every one of these third party apps had their own CSS “concept”. Every one (or at least it seemed like every one) contained their content in a <div> called “wrapper” or “main-content” or similar. While this is a standard technique when you’re building your own corporate site, I have determined that it is a VERY BAD technique when distributing your application to the world.


Because, resolving the conflicts in CSS can be very time consuming, especially if you’re shooting for 100% pixel perfect matches to design documents.

Case and point: This client (who wanted the 5 minute approach) insisted that I should go into the templates and just add inline CSS styles to the right places. That was the “5 minute” approach. I pushed back, and hard, to wrap the pages in a unique ID for each independent system, then re-code their CSS selectors as needed to resolve the major conflicts, then tweak as necessary. (i.e. the 15 minute solution – ok maybe not 15 minutes because these systems had more than one CSS file and some people do really stupid things, but you get the idea). Well, after a lengthy, non-billable time debate, I gave in to the “the client is always right” concept (Note: post on that coming later). And simply did the changes – inline!

Well, it didn’t take long for all those “5 minute” tasks to snow ball. After about 2 hours of “5 minute” changes, we started checking in other browsers and low and behold there were problems. Yes, they were in IE6, but they were still problems. Now the client wanted to fix those “inline” too. At which point I told them that it wasn’t technically possible to do conditional inline styles and was told to do “conditional comments” to make it work. Oh boy. Needless to say, we ended up with a hodge podge of sloppy code that I am totally ashamed to ever be a part of. (Note: A post on clients who know too much is coming soon too :D ). The bottom line in the project is, with the time it took to make all the “5 minute” changes, I could have completed my original process and had time to spare.

Which brings me back to my original point – and a NOTE to third party web application developers. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, start encapsulating, prepending and otherwise uniquely identifying your CSS selectors with some type of naming convention so it’s easier to integrate with other systems. Magento – prepend all your selectors with “MAGENTO_” for example. PHPBB, you can do the same “PHPBB_” etc. In my opinion, the only people who should be using common selector names like “content”, “wrapper” or “main” are the site designers and developers. Your “wrapper” id should not conflict with mine, and to be honest, I really shouldn’t, as a developer, have to either re-code your CSS or mine just to add it to my site. Especially if you’re charging for your product.

I hope you found this article helpful. Feel free to comment.

Will Google go after bloggers?

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

I find it interesting that selling text links still is popular on the web.    You would think Google’s whipping of Web sites selling text links across the web would have essentially erraticated the practice.   Many of you are probably aware of the several ‘get paid to blog’ sites out there.  These are the ‘new’ paid method of text links.   I have to assume it’s only a matter of time before Google catches up to these methods and punishes advertisers and/or bloggers for buying/selling text links.

What is stopping Google from crawling through the listings of bloggers?  Then crawling through their blogs and identifying the potential Web sites that are paying for links.  All seems quite simple to me from a Google engineers standpoint.   Google cracked down on standard text links and I suspect they will do it again with any new method of buying and selling text links.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this…

Ultimate Dropdown Menu 4.5

UDM is a fully-featured and accessible DHTML dropdown menu, that provides useable content to all browsers - including screenreaders, search-engines, text-only browsers and any web enabled device such as PDAs, iPhones ®, and Blackberrys ®. But having a dropdown menu that makes use of the key benefits of accessibility shouldn't mean compromise, and so UDM includes a sophisticated range of design and usability controls, to give you a tool with unique capabilities:

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Server-Side Frameworks

UDM is available in a range of server-side frameworks, that generate CSS and scripting on the server, and can bring the total filesize to only 20K!

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UDM 4 is valid XHTML, and in our judgement, meets the criteria for WAI Triple-A conformance.