Posts by: Albert Banks
Back from our adventure at South By Southwest Interactive Festival (SXSWi) below is a recap of one major takeaway from the event.
We are in an era more chaotic that the browser wars of the mid-90s and mid 2000s. Announced around SWSW were new versions of Internet Explorer (9), Firefox (4) and Chrome (10). Add to the mix Apple’s Safari browser and you have a giant headache for web developers.
The partial inclusion of pre-standard HTML5 features in many of the browsers further muddies the water. You could sense the frustration of the Microsoft representatives when asked about the lack of some HTML5 features in the newly released IE9. After all, this is the same company that was vilified for not having a standards compliant browser (which IE9 is). Although IE9 is a leap in the right direction, user migration from IE7 and IE8 may not be a rapid transition.
Suffice it to say, supporting three versions of IE along with Firefox, Safari and Chrome will be a time consuming challenge.
New to the scene in recent years is the Device factor. In the past designers and developers were only concerned with desktop resolutions and browsers. With the advent of web enabled smartphones, the number of resolutions and configurations continues to expand. The success of iPad and similar tablets adds another class of screen that must be accounted for. Now applications and websites may available on consumer televisions (GoogleTV, Samsung Apps) and gaming consoles (XBOX360, Sony PS3, Wii)
It’s not simply the resolutions and browsers that differ. Mobile devices, be it phone or tablet, presents very different user-scenarios than desktops or even laptops. Many devices exclude the ubiquitously used Flash player due to performance concerns. Users now expect a unique, relevant experience when on-the-go. Even the mobile version of a website must now be defined, designed and developed different from the desktop version.
Those users camped on the couch expect high quality, user-friendly interactions with their TVs and consoles, yet they are 10 feet from those devices. A major problem is that the primary input devices remain controllers and remotes. It was speculated at a few SWSW panels that this may be solved with another external device. After all, 74% of those aged 18-24 are also using a second device (phone, tablet, laptop) when watching TV.
Content Strategy, UX Design and Technology choices must now be made about not just the browser or app, but about the target device as well.
Beyond the web is the world of Apps. A Digital Experience Agency such as Myjive is deeply invested in App development to provide the best user experience. This space was once owned by Apple and it’s iTunes store. Now Android, Blackberry and even Microsoft are all involved.
While the browser and device wars mainly involve web technology, the platform war is much more diverse. Below is the breakdown of development by platform:
iOS: Objective-C and C
Android: Java, C, C++
Blackberry: Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition (J2ME)
WindowsPhone: .NET framework
It is rare to find a developer versed in two or three of these technologies. Thus, development cost for multiple platforms is exponentially more expensive than for developing with web technologies and supporting multiple browsers and devices.
Many panelists and attendees at SXSW also voiced their frustration over the lack of any kind of standards cross-platform, particularly when it comes to User Interaction. Apple set a precedent with most of their gestures, but they certainly are not standards.
Path To Victory
While no Panelist or Speaker had a golden bullet to solve these wars, there were a few possibilities that may ease the pain.
- Define the User: Determine the target audience, devices and platforms in advance.
- Use Web Standards: With IE9, all major browsers have a version that supports the current standards.
- Consider HTML5: In direct conflict with the above, this may be the only cost effective answer to build cross-platform.
Myjive recently sent representatives to the ever popular South By Southwest Interactive Festival (SXSWi). As part of SXWS, the Interactive portion features presentations, keynotes and panels from leaders in emerging technology. Also included was the Trade Show and ScreenBurn arcade.
The amount of information and networking at this event can be quite extensive, leading one tweep to coin the term Exhilarausting (Exhilarating + Exhausting). This “word” accurately describes our experience at the festival.
Since the number of panels and subjects are too numerous for this post, we’ve narrowed our focus to a few takeaways from the event. We’ll soon be posting recaps of those takeaways.
For now, check out the swag acquired throughout the week:
We’re big fans of WordPress here at Myjive. Over the years WordPress has evolved from a simple blog management tool into a robust Content Management System. All the while, it has maintained it’s open source philosophy and community of contributors.
Recently, WordPress reached a major milestone with it’s 3.0 release. There are a ton of new features, but here are the highlights:
- First new official theme in years, Twenty Ten takes advantage of the newest features of WordPress.
- WordPress and WordPress MU have been merged. Manage multiple “sites” from within a WordPress installation.
- Custom menu management feature, allowing creation of custom menus of posts, pages, categories, tags, and links. Menu items may have parents/depth and the new theme has support for drop down menus.
- Define custom header and background images.
- Define both the admin username and password during install.
- Full support for bulk updating of themes and plugins.
- Official support for shortlinks that maintain your site’s brand.
- Improved custom post types and custom taxonomies including hierarchical (category-style) support.
- Specific author templates in the Template Hierarchy.
- 1,217 bug fixes and feature enhancements.
While these changes may not be noticed by the visitors of WordPress powered sites, the new functionality should increase efficiency and management by developers and administrators.
The study references the five CDNs covered, with Limelight having the least amount of slow loads. The study does not appear to factor in factors out of a CDN’s control. Time of day, video encoding and client connection speed certainly influences the play back experience.
But one thing is clear. Video viewers are a demanding bunch. They expect video to start quickly and continue without interruption.
If you haven’t heard of Augmented Reality, here’s the scoop. AR is a live view of the physical world merged with virtual digital information and/or imagery. The concept has been around in the military and industrial applications for years.
You’ve probably seen the technology in use without realizing it. Those first down lines on field during the television broadcast of football games? Yep, that’s AR!
Recently, this technology has gained popularity in many consumer settings.
Advertisers are using it to promote new products via cool interactive experiences. Service providers are using it to present relevant location aware information. Many cities, museums and theme parks are using it to add virtual objects to their existing physical environment.
Like any technology of the brink of popularity, we have to question if it is fad or future. Fast Company recent addressed this exact question. Myjive believes this one is here to stay. All you have to do is look at the many potential applications already being explored.
As we like to say here at the office, “The future is going to be so cool.” And with AR, the future is here.
This year, the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) released it’s HTML 5 proposal. HTML 5, is a significant update to the prominent web presentation specification. The changes focus on web application development, ones that might even make proprietary plug-ins such as Adobe Flash, Microsoft Silverlight, and Sun JavaFX irrelevant.
Below are the most significant new features and their current browsers support:
Video and Audio Tags
The long awaited video and audio tags that would standardize how we include these elements in websites. With HTML 5, including video to your webpage would not require utilizing third-party plug-ins (ie. Flash, Quicktime) or video codecst. Developers would also be able to manipulate videos and built-in video controls.
Browsers: Firefox 3.5
Canvas is used for rendering dynamic bitmap graphics on the fly, such as graphs or games. Invented by Apple, this technology could replace complex charts currently generated by Flash, Silverlight or Java.
Browsers: Safari 4, Chrome, Firefox 3.5, Opera
Separate threads would now be used for processing so to not affect the performance of a webpage. This is very important among the ever increasing number of AJAX based web applications (ie. Gmail).
Browsers: Safari 4, Firefox 3.5
Cache adds the ability to store data locally and access it without having to connect to the internet or install an external application (ie. Google gears).
Browsers: Safari 4, Chrome, Firefox 3.5
Defining location information using a high-level interface (GPS) within the device hosting the browser (ie. Safari on the iPhone). This feature most likely could be turned off in a particular device or browser, but is very useful information when used properly.
Browsers: Firefox 3.5
So, when can we expect to see these features? Some are already supported in current browsers and many are slated to be in the newest versions including Internet Explorer 8. The cog in the wheel may be developers, who will need time to digest these new features and include them in websites they are creating.
Here in the United States we like to think of ourselves as a modern technological society. The truth is we lag behind the rest of the world in a very important facet of technology – broadband. High Speed internet access (broadband) has continued to grow in this country, but not nearly as fast as other nations.
The US has continued to drop in the broadband penetration rankings worldwide – we are now 19th. This means a greater percent of people in countries such as Luxemburg, Australia and Canada have broadband access than Americans.
We also lack when it comes to broadband speed. The latest CWA Report has the US ranked 15th with an median download speed of 2.35 Mb/s. Compared to Japan (63 Mb/s), South Korea (49.50 Mb/s), Finland (21.70 Mb/s) and France (17.60 Mb/s) our speed is pitiful. Even neighbor Canada ranked ahead of the US with an average download speed of 7.60 Mb/s. Now comes the news that Koreans will have 1Gbps connections by 2012.
After hearing these stats, you might wonder how our costs compare to other countries. This is the one list we do top. The US has the highest cost of broadband among industrialized nations.
Where do we go from here?
The government is ready to influence the situation, citing productivity gains from an improved infrastructure. The economic stimulus package should include a $10 billion to $15 billion investment.
US internet service providers have fallen into a stagnant situation. Hopefully, this influx will energize the market. Otherwise, we will continue to drop behind the modern world in broadband…
If you are a sports nut like me, ESPN360 is pretty sweet. It is the web version of ESPN’s television network featuring 3,500 sporting events per year. But you can only view it if your Internet Service Provider (ISP) has shelled out some cash.
For the past few years, ESPN has been forcing ISPs to pay a licensing fee for the website. If the ISP doesn’t pay up their customers don’t get access. Time Warner Cable is one of many ISPs who haven’t signed on, meaning no ESPN360 for me… This is a disturbing trend if you are a fan of Net Neutrality. You know, the right to use your web access for whichever sites and software you desire. Can you imagine choosing your ISP based on the websites you can access or the programs you are allowed to use?
This topic has become a hot political topic and it will continue to be until we finally have some legislation governing the issue.