Archive for the 'Tools' Category

Don’t think too big when creating apps

January 26, 2012

I love this advice from Peter Meyers presented as a pre-SXSW Q&A on e-books. He’s talking about giant book set Modernist Cuisine and how one would successfully create an electronic version.

The short version of my advice to them would be: don’t publish a digital edition of the whole multi-volume set. Instead, distill out an app that’s highly focused on handling some of the in-the-kitchen reference chores and computational wonkery that any modernist chef has to perform.

And the same goes for magazines. Yes, there’s step 1: a digital version of your magazine so that people (like me) who are trying to switch to e-versions can do so. But when it goes beyond that, don’t try to do everything in one app. Think about how your brand can translate into an e-version that is using the technology to its fullest rather than just duplicating paper.


Self on the iPad

June 27, 2011

Nice, Self. See that at the bottom of the first image? A tappable web throw in Self’s iPad edition. A built-in form would be cool, too. And below that, the second image shows a live Twitter feed built into the design. Readers can tweet their reaction with the appropriate hashtag and it will show up. (Not sure if it’s being moderated but there’s a lot of spam potential here – thought it won’t happen until numbers are high enough.)

Gimmicky? Maybe a little. But this is what we’re talking about when we say it’s important to be part of the web with digital editions, not just on the web.

Using WordPress? Try this excellent calendar tool

May 24, 2011

Whether you’re running a personal blog or a magazine site on WordPress, you’ll appreciate this cool (and free) editorial calendar plugin. With calendar view and drag-and-drop rearranging of stories, it will definitely come in handy. Check out Chris Brogan’s review for more info.

Alternatives to basic captchas

September 22, 2010

You’re familiar with captchas, the “are you a real person?” tests at the bottom of online forms that are sometimes decipherable, sometimes not – but essential to cut down on spam, at least of the computer-generated type. Unfortunately, the act of making text unreadable for computers often makes it just as hard for people. But there are a couple of very cool alternatives circulating.

First, one I just read about yesterday – an advertising-based tool that would require users to type in some words related to the ad to “pass the test”. The idea is that they would require some sort of analytical thought to get through, rather than just repeating verbatim what’s presented. In the example shown, for instance, users are asked to enter the quoted text – which requires that they know which text is in quotes. The brilliance in this approach, of course (assuming it works), is the additional revenue it could generate.

The second is an older one, but also very cool and worth pointing out. It’s called recaptcha and is a form of crowdsourcing. Basically, when old books are being scanned and digitized through OCR (optical character recognition) technology, some errors will inevitably creep up. Recaptcha takes these hard-to-read (for computers) words and turns them into a captcha test so that the time spent solving captchas can be put to good use.

What are your thoughts on captchas? Have you used either of these technologies on your site? Do you know of any other alternatives?

Web stats for beginners

October 10, 2008

One of the beautiful things about web publishing is the feedback. We know, pretty quickly, who’s clicking on what and how much time they’re spending there. The system’s not exactly foolproof, but it’s pretty good; the downside, of course, is it’s all too easy to spend way too much time playing with Google Analytics rather than doing everything else on your to-do list.

But I know that the world of web stats can be confusing for a lot of people. To start with, I wanted to give definitions of some common acronyms/words so that you have a better idea of what you’re reading when you look at site statistics. It’s likely that I’ve left some out, so please let me know in the comments and I’ll expand the post.

UVs/unique visitors: The number of different people that visited your site in a particular time period (usually a month). An industry standard to measure a site’s reach. In this number, each visitor is counted only once, no matter how many times they visited the site. Stats tools aren’t omniscient, so often UVs actually translates into unique computers rather than unique people (if more than one person in a household view a site, it’s counted only once); on the other hand, if you’re looking at a site from home and at work, you count as two UVs even though you’re one person.

Total visits: The number of visits to your site in a particular time period (usually a month). So if someone visits your site seven days out of that month, it counts as seven visits.

Pageviews: The total number of your pages that were viewed in a time period (also usually a month). Total visits times average pages per visitor should equal total pageviews.

Pages per visitor: The number of pages each visitor viewed on your site before they left (closed their browser, moved to a different site). A high number of pages per visitor is said to indicate high engagement – readers wanting to spend lots of time and read lots of articles – although my theory is that high pages per visitor often means it’s hard for people to find what they want and they end up clicking around a lot before they reach their goal. (Forcing people to click several times to get to your “contact us” form is a good way to increase both pages per visitor and user annoyance, which is so far not measured by Google Analytics.) Pages per visitor is usually quoted as an average but you can often dig through your sites to get real numbers: e.g., 70% of visitors viewed only one page, 10% viewed two, 15% viewed three, 5% viewed four or more, etc.

Bounce rate: The percentage of visitors who entered and left on a certain page. If a page on your site has a bounce rate of 70%, it means 70% of the people who entered on that page (either through a link from elsewhere or through typing it in) left before going anywhere else on your site.

Landing page: The page a visitor entered on – in other words, the first page of your site that they saw on any particular visit.

Exit page: The last page a visitor viewed before leaving your site.