Welcome to the November 2011 issue of ZooNews, from professional website design company Zoonini Web Services.
Recently a friend grew so frustrated while doing some web research that she was compelled to share some of her observations.
One company from whom she needed some information provided neither email address nor contact form, forcing you to call them long-distance. While their sidebar promisingly listed an impressive variety of social-networking sites where the company has a presence, after reaching out to them with her question, she found them to be unresponsive.
When I took a peek at this company's social-media interactions on some of those sites, it was clear that these were merely one-way streams of promotional posts and tweets: there was zero interaction with its customers.
This case serves a very good lesson for companies who feel the urge to jump on the social-networking bandwagon. Before anything, first be sure you've already covered the communication basics. Make sure that customers have numerous standard ways of getting in touch – preferably via a toll-free phone number, email address, and contact form.
If you want to go beyond that, pick one or two social-media arenas first, and commit to them. Be fully present there and always respond to inquiries, and ideally to any indirect references to your company as well. Don't make your social-media presence solely a PR-delivery mechanism. When potential customers see that you're on Twitter or Facebook, they'll expect to easily connect with you through those channels and get a response should they have a question.
After six months or so, if you've been able to keep up easily with your initial social-media choices, add another and see how it goes. And so on.
As websites are viewed on more and more different types of devices – from miniature iPhone and Android screens, to mid-sized iPads that can be flipped from landscape to portrait mode, to massive 27-inch monitors and beyond – web designers are faced with a dilemma. How do we ensure that websites will look OK and work well in all of these very different contexts?
In 2010 web developer Ethan Marcotte coined the term responsive design to describe a technique where a single website could be built to accommodate devices of varying sizes and orientations. This can be done by having the site automatically detect the screen's width, and then dynamically change the site display – for example, remove or swap certain elements which may not work on smaller devices (such as navigation bars or large images) and limit the page width on wider screens so sites don't look strangely stretched out.
As Smashing Magazine puts it, "Responsive Web design is the approach that suggests that design and development should respond to the user's behavior and environment based on screen size, platform and orientation."
While this method can be an efficient solution that eliminates the need to build a separate site specifically for mobile devices, it can add extra development time to the process and is not perfect. But as mobile devices proliferate, it is an exciting trend that I think will continue to evolve.
Check out the Sasquatch Festival for a great example of a responsive site. See what happens when you resize your browser window smaller, or look at it on different devices to see how the display changes.
Got a technology term you'd like
demystified in ZooNews?
Send it to email@example.com.
Ever wished you could attend one of my WordPress for Beginners talks but haven't been able to make it to a live event? The WordCamp Montreal presentation with colleague Shannon Smith has been posted on WordPress.tv, a repository of WordPress-related videos from around the world. Watch it with the slides open in another browser tab and it's almost as good as being there!
We compiled some WordPress resources on the demo site for participants at this month's special hands-on workshop for beginners that I ran at WordCamp Toronto. While a few are geared to TO locals, most are suitable for any beginner wanting to get their feet wet with WordPress. A huge thank-you to my colleagues Ruth Maude, Christine Rondeau, Al Davis and Jeremy Clarke who ably helped out as TAs for the afternoon, and to Shannon Smith who got the ball rolling on preparations but sadly had to miss the event due to illness.
À la prochaine,
aka Kathryn Presner