Welcome to the June 2011 18INT newsletter!
Google, Microsoft and Yahoo present schema.org
A couple months ago, I wrote about how Facebook’s Open Graph tags improve links to your content in the news stream. Schema.org, a collaboration between Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, to does much the same thing–elaborate on the meaning of your HTML to improve user experience.
Professional programmers know standards and best practices provide the best long-term strategy. Like design patterns and test-driven development, we know it makes life easier even if it’s more work up front. This month, the major search engines agreed to a standard for adding more detail to HTML to aid search indexing. The technique annotates the information on the page without disturbing the display. This new tool is more detailed than Open Graph and aimed at better indexing rather than summarizing content.
Of course, the risk in accepting a new standard is lack of adoption. The potential reward is favored status in organic search results. For database-driven results, the effort is minimal. Well-formatted and templated content will be easy to enhance, too. Google certainly launches standards that fail, but the collaboration of the three largest search engines makes this a good bet.
We have apprentices
This month I’ve invited two young apprentices to work with me. People talk about computer science and software engineering–I prefer to treat it as a craft. I enjoy this work for its own sake. I take joy in an elegant solution. And I know it makes everyone’s lives better.
Craftsmen are apprentices, then journeymen, then masters. We aren’t interchangeable tools. We are individuals with unique personalities. We are human beings who learn from each other. I work to live my values, so I went looking for apprentices to work with me this summer. I found two bright kids that I hope to help become productive programmers over the next few months. If my idea works out, I’ll have a couple of ready resource to expand the capacity of 18INT. And Kyle and Nick will have earned experience and cash.
I have some success in this. Several years ago, I hired a young guy to split his time between desktop support and HTML coding. He worked to learn PHP and earn more responsibility. Today, he leads a large team of engineers at a successful agency–a cherished milestone in my career.
My life with programming began with a teacher who lugged his Apple II to school every day. That’s a gift I can only repay with similar kindness.
Tilex.com and CloroxProfessional.com launch
May and June have been busy months for 18INT thanks to a lot of work sent our way from Clorox and our friend Fil Jach. Collaborating with diverse teams, we helped launch two sites this month, Tilex and Clorox Professional Solutions.
You likely have heard of the Tilex brand of cleaners. A refresh to the Web site was put together by internal design talent and 18INT engineers on a tight schedule. One of the most interesting aspects of the work was the addition of Facebook Open Graph tags. Try sharing a link to one of the pages and your post will contain a relevant description and a nice Tilex logo. Compare this to the mishmash and random image you might get when linking to some other page.
The Clorox Professional site describes Clorox products suitable for commercial enterprises such as hospitals, restaurants and janitorial services companies. The beautiful design presented many technical challenges to the team. We created features for filtering products by topic, finding resellers for different product types, and presenting recipes suitable for restaurants. This site will be a great help to Clorox in communicating their focus on solutions.
I’m proud of the high quality work we did on these sites. We ran every page through HTML and CSS validators. We adapted the site to all the popular Web browsers, from MSIE 7 through Chrome 12. And we delivered both sites on fast schedules.
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Do you have a specific topic you’d like me to address? I’ve been asked about e-commerce several times in the past month, which I’m taking as a clue to take a fresh review of what’s out there now. I’d appreciate your suggestions.