Web Design Implications for Translated Web Sites

I have posted an article on the web design and architecture implications of content translation.

Translating web content sounds straight forward on the surface: identify a few key pages, translate them into French, English, Spanish and Chinese and you are done! Successfully supporting your outcomes with translated content requires a more thorough approach however. This white paper discusses various aspects of how to effectively translate and deploy web-based content. (More…)

Internet Disruptions and Global Web Audiences

Several undersea telecommunications cables were cut in the Middle East/South Asia region last week. Networks from Egypt to India were impacted, creating very slow to broken connections. Outsource operations in India were a big concern but the large players had alternate connections available as part of their disaster response.

There has been a lot of speculation as to how the cables were cut and no ships have been identified yet in the areas where the cables were severed. John Robb posted today about how cutting undersea cables is a viable strategy for small groups to execute in a system disruption campaign.

All of which made me think about organizations who address a global audience via their web sites. If Robb is right, this kind of disruption could be become more frequent. If you have a large audience for your site outside your own region, you should consider how to ameliorate this risk in advance.

What could you do? The main thing I can think of is to distribute the hosting of your web sites around the globe, either by maintaining mirrored sites or deploying localized sites in their target regions. Locally deployed sites in key regions would provide you with continued service to those audiences even if they are disconnected from the Internet as a whole for a period of time. This is a non-trivial effort but if serving global audiences is a key part of achieving your goals, it could be a good investment against future disruption and associated losses.

Registration and Login Pages

Both registration and login pages are critical pieces of any interactive web site. A couple of posts popped up last week that provide good tips for each.

The Art of the Sign Up Page and Account Sign-in: 8 Design Mistakes.

The critical thing to keep in mind with pages like these is to pare them down to just the bare essentials of what is needed to get the user where they want to be. This can be really tough to do at times, organizations being what they are, but you will be rewarded for your efforts if you can hold the line.

An interesting caveat to the above: do not ignore the marketing opportunities that a login page for restricted content provides. You can show the value of what is behind the login and offer a next step to do what they need to do to gain access (which probably involves giving you money). You still have to make sure those messages don’t get in the way of those who already have access while being visible enough to attract the attention of those who are your potential customers/members.

New Year Resolutions for Web Executives

Below are a few ideas on new year’s resolutions for web executives:

Get Strategic
Meet with each of the senior executives in your organization or department and ask them about their primary goals for 2008. How will they know they have achieved them? How important are they to the company? What role should the Web have in supporting those goals?

Those few hours of meetings will help you, as the leader of the organization’s web team, develop a clear image of what the organization is trying to achieve this year and how you can align your team to provide the most value they can to those goals. You will also earn the respect and support of your senior team by proactively reaching out to them.

Get Innovative
Innovation is the simple act of doing something differently in order to create new value. This might include creating greater efficiency in your processes or developing new value for your web site visitors in the form of content and functionality.

Commit yourself this year to constantly assessing opportunities for innovation in your processes and ultimate product. What areas need to change in order to meet your goals for the year? Where can you be more efficient in your content publishing processes? Can you tweak an administrative interface to be easier for staff? Can you simplify the interfaces you present to your customers?

You get the idea. Innovation should be a daily activity for any web executive.

Challenge Your Team
Challenge your web team to achieve something this year they have never done before. Make sure the challenge is aligned with your overall goals but feel free to get creative otherwise.

For example: When I used to lead a large web team, we had an organizational goal of improving the accessibility of our web site. Since standards-based design practices get you most of the way to accessibility, I challenge the team to develop a new set of templates that had “code we could be proud of” when someone viewed the source of pages. That phrase resonated with two staffers, who I then tasked to lead the project. It was our rallying cry that year and helped to make sure we kept focused on that major change to the site.

By now you may have realized that you should be doing all three of the above ideas as part of being an effective web executive. Use the New Year as an opportunity to recommit yourself and your team to these activities.

DRM is Hazardous to Your Revenue

I answered a question yesterday about tools for applying digital rights management (DRM) to electronic products such as PDFs and digital video files.

The short answer is that you do not need to act like an big media executive in how you offer digital products. Applying DRM to your electronic publication products is counter productive in most cases. I offer a few more thoughts on this in the short slide presentation below.

As an aside: I’ve been having fun with slideshare.net this past week, as you may have noticed. The key to using this as a medium for sharing your ideas is to design for it. Slides from my presentations are optimized to support my talk. Slides on slideshare need to stand on their own.

Update: This set of slides is currently featured on the Slideshare.net home page. Nobody can resist a good DRM smackdown.

Stikipad Losing It's Stick

I have recommended Stikipad as an inexpensive host wiki service for the last few years. As far as I can tell, the owners of the service have abandoned it since June and it’s performance is degrading. If you are using it I highly recommend migrating your stuff to another site before it goes away. Such is life with using start-up web-based services.

Here are a few alternatives:

  • Google Docs (free, wiki-ish, web-based, Office clone)
  • PB Wiki ($500/year for up to 5 users)
  • Wikispaces ($50/year for one wiki, unlimited users)
  • Confluence ($500/year for up to 15 users)
  • SocialText (Free for up to 5 users, call for pricing otherwise*)

* Come on SocialText! At least put entry level pricing online.

WYSIWYG Web Editors

All modern content management systems provide a Word-style editor that lets non-technical staff edit and add content to web sites. It is a key part of enabling line staff around the organization to produce and manage their own content.

What you may not have realized is that you have several options avaiable for adding WYSIWYG editors (what you see is what you get) to your own web applications. Sometimes they are as easy to install as adding a few lines of code to a web page.

Here are a few free and commercial solutions for providing an easy to use text editor in your own web applications:

Tiny MCE
This editor works across numerous platforms and is available under an open source license. It is written in javascript and is used widely in many applications. It has many configuration options available and can be tweaked to support a defined set of styles.

Ektron eWebEditPro
A widely used commercial editor from Ektron. It is also highly configurable and allows you tie down functionality to just what you want editors to have access too. It is not cross platform and only works on Windows-based browsers. (Their suggestion for Mac clients is a bit of a joke.)

Another open source content editor written in Javascript.

And one more open source, Javascript-based, editor.

Given all the options available, it is unreasonable not to provide a rich editor for your applications that should support user formatting of content.

Vista/IE7 Support Lagging in Content Management Systems

The good folks over at CMSWatch report that many content management systems still do not fully support authoring on Vista/IE7.

As they point out in the post, this will be a growing problem for telecommuters as new PCs with Vista are purchased. Most corporations are sticking with XP for now (with good reason) but the home market is another story.

If your staff work on web content from home, you should do some testing with your system on Vista so that you can anticipate any problems and lean on your vendor to get a fix into place if needed.

Web Analytics Definitions or A Page View by Any Other Name Is Not Allowed!

The Web Analytics Associations has released an expanded set of 26 standard definitions for measuring web traffic and usage (PDF). This is a useful document for providing consensus definitions of common terms used in the web industry.

However, I find it rather ironic that they released this document only as a PDF. Come on folks! You should know better, being an association of web professionals.

(Via Shawn Zehnder Lea.)

Update: What would I recommend in addition to a PDF? A sub-site on the WAA site for the definitions, providing an index and a separate web page for each definition. Having a page for each definition would allow people to link to them directly as references. This would improve the usability of the content and enhance search engine results for those definitions (ahem).