May
13
2009
2

PDRater.com calculators for your phone!

This phone will not run PDRater calculators, but yours might!

This phone will not run PDRater calculators, but yours might!

I recently discovered that installing the Opera Mini web browser on my “smartphone” has allowed me to run this website’s workers’ compensation calculators from my phone.[1]

Since launching this website I’ve given a lot of thought to support for cell phones.  There just are not many phones that can run these calculators.[2] The glaring and notable exception is the iPhone.

Amusingly, one of this website’s users has asked for an “iPhone app” version of this site.  Seriously, you’ve got one of the few phones that can use this site and that’s not good enough for you?  (Thanks Chris!)

This is huge.  It means:

  • I can blog from the Board[3]
  • More importantly, no more bulky money charts or rating manuals at the Board!
  1. Photo courtesy of storm gal []
  2. It would be more correct to say there are not many phones that support javascript and AJAX well enough to interact with this website in a meaningful fashion. []
  3. Probably a lot more interesting for me than it is for you… []
Mar
28
2009
2

New Ogilvie DFEC Rebuttal Calculator feature!

Getting an upgrade!

Getting an upgrade!

Late last week a user asked for a new feature.[1]  He wanted to be able to perform the Ogilvie DFEC rebuttal calculation and have the results e-mailed to him.[2] Well, I built it![3]

To e-mail yourself a calculation, perform the calculation as normal.  When the website returns your calculation, it will say “E-mail Me!”  Just click that button and it will send an e-mail to the address you used to register for this website.

However, here’s the cool part:  I’ve installed this new e-mail system into every calculator! [4] No more having to copy and paste!  Just click one button and your calculation will show up in your inbox![5]

Although I intend this to be a paid-subscription-only feature, I am going to leave it open for all users while I get some feedback.  So, what do you think?  Please leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail!

  1. Thanks Dennis! []
  2. Photo courtesy of Vernhart []
  3. Why, what did you do with your Saturday morning? []
  4. I haven’t installed it in some of the EAMS lookup functions []
  5. If you filled in the boxes for Applicant, WCAB #, and File #, it will include this information in your e-mail as well.  This is only for your convenience and not a requirement. []
Dec
19
2008
1

How NOT To Build A Successful Website: Frames

No Frames, Please

No Frames, Please

A little while ago I posted about How NOT to Build a Successful Website using Adobe Flash.  Long story short, Adobe Flash websites are extremely unfriendly to both website visitors and businesses who own the websites. [1]

The second worst way to create a website is to build it totally out of frames.  There are several workers’ compensation defense firms who have websites built out of frames – and they’re terrible.

In the early days of the internet frames were an easy way to enable navigation throughout a website.  Since then easy-to-use intelligent server-side languages[2] and client-side languages[3] have made building website navigation tools a breeze.  More importantly, these other technologies and techniques do everything frames do – only better.

Here are some of the problems with websites created using frames:

  • Un-bookmark-able. Just as with Adobe Flash, users can’t bookmark specific pages within a website built using frames.  This means your website visitors can’t come back to visit that specific page and, more importantly, can’t send a meaningful link to their friends.
  • Un-navigable.  Depending on how someone links to your frame based website, its very possible that they will link directly to an internal frame.  This means a website visitor getting to your website from a search engine might never see your website’s name or logo!
  • Printing. Frame based websites don’t always interact properly with web browsers.  When you go to print, you might end up printing the wrong frame.  Make it easy for your clients to make a hard copy of the information they see on your website and don’t use frames.
  • Search Engine Optimization.  Search engines are designed to be smart.  Even so, search engines still have trouble untangling a website made out of frames.  If people cannot reach your website by searching for exactly what you’re about, your website is a failure.

I know why there some web developers sell frame-based websites.  From a development standpoint, they’re very very easy to write.  Frames are little more than HTML, so they’re if you can create a Word document, you can create an frames-based website.  I suppose it would be relatively easy to also recyle parts of that website in a new website.  These websites are also deceptively good-looking.  When the web developer is showing you a frame based website, you’re going to see exactly what you expect.  The “danger” of a frame-based website, as indicated above, is that its so easy for it to be shown to your potential clients in the wrong way or out of context.

I think I also know why businesses invest in frame-based websites.   They require so little skill to create that a business can just have one of their file clerks or some high school kid build the website cheaply.  The website would be, for all intents and purposes, free.

A website is essentially the 21st century equivalent of a resume.  You’re using it to tell your clients about you before you ever get a chance to meet them.  These days everyone considers Google to be a verb.  If your potential clients are already looking for you through the internet, shouldn’t you try to put your best foot forward?  A cheap temporary website is fine … as long as its temporary.  As soon as you can afford to do so hire someone to put togther something better.

Website Development Tips:

  • Never build a site out of frames.
  • Other web technologies and techniques do everything frames do, only better.
  • Think of your website as your business’s resume, since that’s what potential clients may see first.
  • Think of your website like a business suit.  If it doesn’t look good on a first impression, a potential client may never even speak to you.
  1. Original photo courtesy of eriwst []
  2. Such as PHP and MySQL. []
  3. Such as Javascript. []
Dec
10
2008
2

How NOT To Build A Successful Website: Adobe Flash

No Flash, please

No Flash, please

There are many different ways to put together a website.  Flat HTML which does not interact with the users at all.  Javascript enabled pages which allow the user to interact with the webpage a little.  AJAX enabled pages which allow the user to interact with the web server and even other users.

The worst way imaginable for a website to be built is one entirely powered by Adobe Flash animation.  I know of at least one workers’ compensation defense firm that has an all Flash website – and I feel sorry for them.  Their clients probably never use their website.  They’re squandering one of their best marketing tools.

Here are just a few of the problems with Flash websites:

  • Bandwidth. A picture of the word “website” is much much larger than the text “website.”  In a similar way, a Flash website is going to be much much larger than the same information presented in pure HTML.  The bigger your website, the longer it will take for it to load.
  • Maintenance. The smallest change to the website needs to be handled by the original web developer.  If you “invest” in an all-Flash website, you’re basically hiring that web developer for life.  With traditional websites, you can hire any code monkey to adjust your website.
  • Unnavigable. Flash websites do not work with the browser’s “Back” button.  If your users can’t navigate your website in a normal fashion, they will leave and never come back.
  • Search Engine Optimization. Or, SEO, as it is known in the business.  If your website is basically a bunch of moving pictures, it can’t be indexed by a search engine, so it doesn’t know what your website is about, so it doesn’t know when to show it to people who are searching for exactly the kinds of things you are trying to sell.
  • Repeat Business. If your website is meant to be something people look at once and never return to, I suppose its fine. The problem with a Flash website is that it will not allow users to bookmark or link to particular pages.  This means if your clients really love a particular page on your site they can’t e-mail the link to their co-workers!

I know why web developers sell Flash websites.  These websites show off how great you are at creating swooshing logos and nifty pages transitions.  And, if your client ever needs a little change, they have to come back to you or pay someone else to build them a website from scratch.[1]

I also know why businesses invest in Flash websites.  They want something stylish and unique.  In reality all truly successful website forgo snazzy animations for functional user friendly pages.  If Amazon, eBay, and Google don’t build their websites out of Flash, why should you?

This isn’t to say that Flash animation doesn’t have its place.  It think its great for product demos, presentations, and banner ads.  Its an excellent way to present information in a graphical format.  That said, you should never ever purchase a Flash website.

Website Development Tips:

  • Never build a site out of Flash.
  • Never use Flash to show words.
  • If its good enough for Google, its good enough for you.
  • Focus on what your customers want to see, not what you want to show them.
  • Make it easy for your customers to tell people about you.
  1. Heaven forbid you have a new hire or, you know, the law changes. []
Nov
24
2008
0

Calculator Update 11-24-2008

Calculator

Calculators

Last week a website user notified me of a problem he was experiencing with this website’s rating calculators.  He’s been a regular user for nearly a year now.  When he tried to perform a calculation the calculators would just show waiting indicators without showing the answer.  If he closed the browser window and reopened it, it would sometimes fix the problem.  To complicate matters, his coworker was having a similar problem.

Worst of all, this problem had been plaguing them for two weeks.  If you have a problem with this website, let me know as soon as possible so that I can track down the last change to the site to see if its causing a problem.

My troubleshooting went like this:

  1. Get a detailed description of the symptoms.
  2. Try to replicate the problem.
  3. Reiterate the problem to make sure I’ve got it right.
  4. While working to diagnose and fix the problem, offer a temporary fix (putting up a temporary site for their use).
  5. Look into recent changes in the website (going back two weeks).
  6. Since I couldn’t replicate the problem, ask additional questions.
    • Does the problem occur at a particular time of the day?[1]
    • What web browser and version do they use?[2]
    • What operating system?  When was the last update?[3]
      • Explain how to figure out their version of Windows and how to install update.
    • Do they have any third-party “toolbars” installed?  Yahoo, Google, MSN, etc toolbars.[4]
      • Ask them to temporarily disable or uninstall the toolbar.  Give them links to where they can re-download the toolbar software.
    • Do they single-click or double-click on buttons?[5]
    • Are other co-workers having the same problem?[6]
    • Do they have this same problem on different computers?[7]
    • Is the browser showing javascript errors?[8]
    • Ask them to try out a new browser. I recommended the PortableApps.com version of FireFox.
      • If the problem disappears, its obviously in their computer or network.  If the problem persists, it could still possibly be their network or the website.
  7. Above all else: KEEP THE CLIENT INFORMED.[9]

As of right now, one of this client’s co-workers has contacted me to say that he’s no longer having trouble with the website.

So, problem solved?  If not, let me know, alrighty?

  1. This would indicate a data bottleneck at the server.  Time to upgrade! []
  2. And, tell them how to find this information. []
  3. Have I mentioned how much I loathe Microsoft VistaSeriously, I think people should delete Microsoft Vista because its crap. []
  4. These browser helper objects are notorious for interfering with normal browser operations.  Worse, you can’t rule them out based upon when they were installed because they’re constantly downloading and installing updates to themselves. []
  5. Double clicks send two requests to the server – and might be confusing the browser. []
  6. Two computers on a single network could be a coincidence, a sign of a problem with the website, or a sign of a problem with the client’s network. []
  7. If not, its a problem with that computer.  If so, could still be a problem with either the website or their computers/network. []
  8. Tell them how to tell if there’s an error and how to give you the error code information. []
  9. They may not care for the constant updates, but they will know you’re on the case. []

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