Google Geocoding with CakePHP

Google has some pretty neat toys for developers and CakePHP is a pretty friendly framework to quickly build applications on which is well supported. That said, when I went looking for a Google geocoding component, I was a little surprised to discover that nobody had created one to do the hand-shakey business between a CakePHP application and Google.

That is, I didn’t find anyone, though they may well be out there.

I did find several references to a Google Maps helper, but, that didn’t help too much since I had an address and no geodata. The helpers I found looked, well… helpful once you had the correct data, mind you. Before you can do all of the maps-type stuff, you have collect the geodata and that’s where I came in. Continue reading “Google Geocoding with CakePHP” »

Balance is Everything

Earlier this year I discussed progressive enhancement, and proposed that a web site should perform the core functions without any frills. Last night I had a discussion with a friend, regarding this very same topic. It came to light that it wasn’t clear where the boundaries should be drawn. Interaction needs to be a blend of server- and client-side technologies.

Ultimately, it is rarely clear where boundaries are in a project. What is too much, what is too little? Somewhere between too much and too little is just right, much like what Goldilocks wanted in her porridge. We know that even the most limited of users should be able to access our sites within certain considerations. A photo gallery is, ultimately, little use to a blind person, but alt tags should still be in place. Sound clips of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra would be useless to a deaf person, though a caption or indication as to what each sound clip is would be quite handy.

Coming back to the point, finding a balance point is critical to providing rich, meaningful interaction between your user and your site. Perhaps the first question which should be answered is “can this be done without Technology X?” Continue reading “Balance is Everything” »

Almost Pretty: URL Rewriting and Guessability

Through all of the usability, navigation, design, various user-related laws and a healthy handful of information and hierarchical tricks and skills, something that continues to elude designers and developers is pretty URLs. Mind you, SEO experts would balk at the idea that companies don’t think about using pretty URLs in order to drive search engine placement. There is something else to consider in the meanwhile:

The user.

Several articles I found talk about the SEO benefits of pretty URLs and whether it is very important to consider using them with a site as they don’t encourage a major boost anymore. “It’s ten years too late,” they say. It’s never too late, I say. Continue reading “Almost Pretty: URL Rewriting and Guessability” »

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What Have I Done? (Redux)

A little earlier this month, I made a post to Posterous called “What Have I Done?” It was less a post about what I had done as what I was doing. Here we are, approaching the end of the month and I’ve just completed phase one of what I was doing.

In saying all that, I would like to oficially kick this post off with a bit of rejoice. CobbleSite version 1 is complete and ready for people to play with it. Let’s just call it a version though it’s not. Not really, anyway. This is exciting for me as I get to do more than simply blog about what I do, I get to show it.

All of this isn’t very useful if I don’t share a little about why I did it. I mean, what’s so special about just one more content management system if it’s built to be a variant on everything else that is already out there? There is, after all, one major difference: Continue reading “What Have I Done? (Redux)” »

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Predictive User Self-Selection

Some sites, like this one, have a reasonably focused audience. It can become problematic, however, for corporate sites to sort out their users, and lead them to the path of enlightenment. In the worst situations, it may be a little like throwing stones into the dark, hoping to hit a matchstick. In the best, users will wander in and tell you precisely who they are.

Fortunately, users often leave hints as to who they are without knowing it. They (hopefully) travel through your site, touching certain pages and avoiding others. They also arrive from somewhere.

When trying to select your user and direct them, your initial response may be to directly ask them who they are and what they want. This works well if you are an e-tailer like Amazon, but the rest of us don’t have quite the same luxury. Continue reading “Predictive User Self-Selection” »

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