Recent Blog Posts

25th August 2011

UI is your books cover

We've all  heard the common expression "don't judge a book by it's cover", but people still do.

As humans it can help to recognise how visually influenced we are by the things around us. Every day we do exactly what we are told not to and judge a book by it's cover. Ask yourself when you're in public have you ever decided someone is, gay or poor just because of how they're dressed?

Why do we make these conclusions? Well in some ways they can help. By asserting that a hooded man approaching you on the path is more likely to cause trouble you can take action sooner. Maybe you'll cross the road, or enter the pub you're just walking past.

The problem is these conclusions we make based on first impressions are often wrong. This is why your websites user interface is incredibly important.

Picture this... You're new in town and you're walking down the local highstreet. You see a computer shop, in the window. There is an old CRT monitor on display for £5. The window is a little dirty and it doesn't look like it's very well lit inside. Next to that shop is another computer shop. This time it has new laptops, monitors and other gear in the window. It looks colourful, bright and they even have an offer on in the window. Naturally if you were in the market for a new laptop you would likely choose the second shop to get it from. Guess what though? That first shop has the same laptops as the second shop, but they're a quarter of the price.

What I'm trying to explain is that new customers are less likely to care what your website offers and more likely to care about how it looks and how it feels.

So ask yourself, is your website the first shop or the second?


18th August 2011

I hate PHP, but I'm still using it

Before I start writing I want to clarify something... PHP is shit.

My first real experience with programming was with JAVA in college. I didn't know anything about programming back then. I didn't know what a class or a function was, I didn't even know what a data type was. I was learning to program from fresh.

My teacher first started us off by explaining conditional statements and giving us some JAVA code to play with so we could experiment with the logic. I found this quite easy. I understood the logic and felt confident that I could change bits of the code to get the output I wanted. I remember changing a friends code to display the number of nuts he has.

We moved on. We started learning about classes and objects and things started getting more confusing. I could change the logic of the sample code and I generally got the output I wanted but I didn't really understand all of it. 'What are these static things'? I want to point out that my teacher was great, OO programming is just a very tricky concept to teach.

This is where I fell in love with PHP.

Me and my friend decided to create a hosting website. I've known HTML since high school so that wasn't a problem, it was just the sites logic. We started playing with PHP a bit and I couldn't believe how easy it was to use. I didn't have to worry about creating a main method (public static main thing) or classes. It didn't even moan when I wanted to compare a String with an int.

Now I'm in university and I finally understand the costs of these shortcuts in PHP, however I still use it. I think in it's own way, it's perfect. Let me explain by using Facebook as an example. For Facebook to be successful it needed to be better than it's competition. By using PHP features could be roled out a lot quicker because all the thought could go into the core logic over the little things stricter languages want you to think about. This meant the developers could get features out quicker making them more competitive. Facebook might not be where they are now without PHP.

I think a developer should use the language he or she feels they can get the best results from. If that's PHP, like me, then use it! It's better to get 100 billion hits a day then start optimising than having everything perfect and only getting 100 hits a day.


6th August 2011

The startup mindset: Will I ever be content?

Over the last year I've put so much thought and time into startups ideas and projects. I've always been interseted in web businesses and I started working on my first e-commerce website about 4 years ago back in high school. I never took it quite as seriously back then, it was just a bit of fun when I was bored.

Lately I've been thinking non-stop about creating a successful startup. I worry that I'm getting older and I have no clear path to success. In reality I'm only 20 and I've had more success with jobs and projects than most people my age.

What worrys me though is that this fear I have of not succeeding has massive negative affects on the rest of my life. For a start I hardly sleep anymore. Over the last 3 days I've had just 10 hours sleep. I want to sleep right now, but won't because I don't want to waste this time I have. I find myself getting angry with friends because I can't just sit down and just relax, I need to be doing something.

The way I see it is that if I only live once, I need to make the best of the life I have. I want to experience as much as I can but I need money to do that. I couldn't think of anything worse than when I'm old knowing that only thing I did in life was work my ass off for someone elses gain.

I hope I don't regert how I am now in 20 years time.


21st July 2011

"Respond with innovation, not with lawsuits"

Apple have made a bad move in my opinion recently. They have acquired a patent that basically prevents competitors making decent smart phones. More details on the patent can be found here: http://news.cnet.com/8301-30685_3-20073461-264/apples-new-multitouch-patent-faq/
Now competitors don't have many options, but to pay Apple licensing fees so they can access the patent portfolio, or deal with an expensive lawsuit.

This kind of attitude towards competitors means instead of Apple needing to be even more innovative to stay in front of competitors it can instead just accuse them of patent infringement. This means we won't get the new innovative phones and devices like we should be getting when companys are in competition. Google's Eric Schmidt said:

'The big news in the past year has been the explosion of Google Android handsets and this means our competitors are responding.
Because they are not responding with innovation, they're responding with lawsuits.
We have not done anything wrong and these lawsuits are just inspired by our success.'

HTC a Taiwanese company who develops Google android devices has recently come under fire from these new Apple owned patents, and as a result , their shares have fell to a six month low. Google has commented on HTC's on-going patent infringement battle saying simply:

'We will make sure they don't lose'.

I hope Google, HTC and other Android device developers win this battle and keep the smart phone market competitive and innovative.


14th July 2011

A good CMS saves time and money.

I've worked on way too many sites that have poor CMSs. The problem is if your CMS is impossible to use it becomes increasingly hard to add content!
I've had to rebuild sites from scratch because of poor CMSs; there is nothing more annoying than having to spending 100s of lines of code on something that should take just a few.

So you've installed a CMS? Great! Now use it correctly! If you're not spending the time to learn all it's functions and methods what's the point in using it? For example if your CMS has a user library included, then use it. You're only going to run into problems later if you get lazy and use a 'SELECT * FROM `users`'.


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