Thursday, 21 August 2014

It's good to be responsive

As a web developer, it is my job to keep up to date with the ever changing and constantly evolving internet industry. Whether it’s researching some stupid new legislation devised by an impotent politician whose only experience of the internet is porn, or learning about new programming languages, SEO tricks, social networking fads and what is new and in fashion in terms of design.

The internet industry moves very quickly. Technology moves at an alarming rate and tastes and fashions change too. Basically, if your website is over 5 years old, you might as well not have one. With desktop monitors getting bigger all the time, mobile browsing becoming more and more popular and social media/apps changing the way people use the internet, tastes and requirements have changed significantly over the last few years.

Largely because of the dawn of mobile browsing, responsive websites have become the new “it” thing. When I first heard the term “responsive website”. I had absolutely no idea what it meant. I assumed it just meant a website that was interactive or did something responsive based on a user’s input, which is what 99% of the websites I’ve built over the last 13 years have been.

It actually refers to a site that dynamically adjusts its own layout depending on the size and type of browser that it’s being viewed on. So for instance, if you looked at it on a big desktop monitor and then shrank the window, you would see it realign itself and change right before your eyes. It’s very clever.

This is good because it negates the need to create a separate mobile version of a website which means it is more economical for the customer and means I don’t have to build two different sites.

Of course it also means everything that was built prior to the dawn of responsive sites is now out of date. This is annoying because, having spent the last couple of years redesigning our suite of apps and control panels to match our company branding and website, I now have to recode most of it again to accommodate the responsiveness. Of course this does also mean that we can now offer our clients the chance to rebuild their sites and, in the process, make them look nicer too (because, let’s face it, what may have looked good 5 years ago almost certainly looks rubbish now).

So if you don’t want a tired, dreary and unfashionable website but want something new, exciting and responsive, Datapartners can can help. Below are just some of the sites we have started to rebuild as responsive. Check them out.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Keeping your privates private

A property developer has recently bought the house across the road from me and has been attempting to build a second house on the plot of land that it sits on. Needless to say, I, along with most of the other neighbours, have vetoed this. There are a number of reasons. Firstly the plot is only big enough to fit a shoe in and would look ridiculous. Secondly, it would inevitably be rented out to a bunch of drug dealers or benefit cheats and, quite frankly, I don’t want the lovely quiet street I live in occupied by scumbags. Thirdly the building in question would look right into my bathroom and I don’t like the idea of a bunch of scumbags who are high on cocaine watching me getting all soapy and wet in the shower. No one wants to see that.

There is a reason I bought a house with four walls and a roof. It’s the same reason I lock the toilet door before emptying the contents of my stomach. It’s called privacy. I guard my privacy quite tightly and get really rather annoyed when people attempt to take it away from me. It’s why a lot of people are annoyed with Facebook and its ever-changing privacy policy that appears to be determined to make everyone’s details public.

Of course the internet industry is one where someone always has access to someone else’s personal information. Take my business: A lot of my customers run online shops so whenever someone buys something on that shop, their details are saved in a database that I have access to. Technically I have the power to see names and addresses of their customers. I also run a lot of my business off Google. I store most of my company documents on Google Drive, I use Gmail, Google Calendar and pretty much every other product. Technically, someone at Google could see all this information too. Does it bother me? No. Why? Because I chose to place my trust in Google in the same way that my customers chose to place their trust in me.

It’s all very well and good people complaining because Facebook violates their privacy but, I’m sorry, when you voluntarily sign up to a free service that is solely designed to share information with other people, you can’t really complain when the information that you voluntarily shared is shared with people. That’s a bit like breaking the speed limit in a car and complaining when you get stopped by the police. You chose to do it, therefore accept responsibility for your actions.

Of course transparency is they key to trust. I recently uninstalled an app for my Samsung Galaxy because of this:

Do you see the problem here? It wants to modify my calendar, send emails to people without my knowledge, read my confidential information, delete the contents of my memory card and know my exact location. Errrr no thanks. I just want to look at a map of the London Underground on my phone. I don’t want my phone being taken over by hackers.

Now, if I had accepted these terms, I couldn’t rightly complain when the developers of this app hijacked my phone and started sending photos of underage chickens to MI5 any more than I could complain if a drug addled pervert took photos of me showering and sold them to Big Boys in Boots magazine because I didn’t object to them building a house that looked into my bathroom. That is why the house isn’t being built.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

My head is in the clouds

It’s no secret that I’m a Google advocate. I've always loved the simplicity of their stuff. I've always loved how their stuff works. I've always loved how good their stuff is. I've always loved the fact that most of it is free. I even watched The Internship the other day and thought it was a good film.

Like most people, I use Google exclusively to search for things on the internet. Youtube is always my first port of call for watching videos and Google Maps is always where I’ll go to get directions. Being in the web industry, I use Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools, AdSense and Blogger but I've recently starting migrating a lot of other areas of my business to Google. This is partly because I’m fed up with Microsoft and the obscene cost, colossal unreliability and general stupidity of its products and services, but mostly because, being in the web industry, most of my day is spent in the cloud.

Now, this doesn't mean I spend all my time daydreaming. I only spend a third of my time doing that. What it means is I am almost exclusively working online, so it makes perfect sense to have all my stuff online too. The problem with the way I used to work is that all my stuff was on my computer in the office. If I ever needed to work from home, I couldn't access that stuff unless I transferred everything I needed onto a memory stick, which is a pain in the backside. The beauty of using Google is that everything is online.

I am now using Gmail to power my work emails, I've ditched Microsoft Word and Excel for Google Docs, I’m storing all my documents and files on Google Drive and I’m using Google Calendars to manage my diary. This means that it doesn't matter where I am in the world, I can access all my data at any time simply by logging on to my Google account. I even set up Google Cloud Print the other day which means I can assign printers to my Google account and print from anywhere in the world to the printer I set up. It’s bloody brilliant.

Sure Microsoft are jumping on the bandwagon now and there are sites like Dropbox, Amazon Cloud and iCloud that provide online storage, but Google have got it just right. Their products are simple, easy to use and, best of all, free!

The cloud is the way forward. As well as the accessibility benefits, it mostly removes the need for external backups because that is controlled by the cloud service. It removes the need to save copies of files and transfer things from one machine to another on memory sticks. It allows easy sharing of files, making collaboration much easier.

Of course there are always going to be members of the anti-change committee piping up and saying it’s dangerous, not secure, and you’ll catch anal herpes from it but, quite frankly, these people are idiots. I’ll explain why:

Storing data online is no less secure than storing it on your computer or a memory stick. Sure, if someone knows your username and password they could get into your cloud device and steal your information but unless you are having your fingernails pulled out in an interrogation chamber there shouldn't be a reason for anyone else to have your password. In any case, there is more chance of someone breaking into your house and stealing your computer or memory stick. I have a Google Chromebook and if someone steals that, my data is perfectly safe because there is no data stored on the hard drive - it’s all in the cloud. They couldn't even view downloaded files because the data has been encrypted by some of the best minds in the world.

Some people will claim Google will use everything stored in the cloud to spy on them, steal their identity and kill their family, but anyone who truly believes Google is part of a Zionist conspiracy to rule the world is a moron. In any case, who’s to say Microsoft couldn't do it to your old fashioned desktop computer? Think about it: How does Microsoft know when your computer is in need of Windows Updates? Whenever you connect to the internet, your computer communicates with a server at Microsoft. I’m sure it is very possible for Microsoft to look into the bowels of your hard drive if they wanted, which of course they wouldn't.

It really is an exciting time. The way the internet is continuing to evolve is fascinating for a geek like me. People should embrace change and live in the cloud. Change is good.

This blog was produced on Google Docs, in Google Drive from both my Google Chromebook and Desktop PC, and published on Google’s Blogger.