Find Web Developers
Find Web Developers

Hire Experienced PHP Developers and Get Dynamic Websites of Top Quality

August 9th, 2018

Did you know that over 82% of all websites in the world use PHP as their server-side scripting language? Which roughly accounts to more than 8 sites out of 10, and this speaks volume about the widespread use and popularity of a programming language. We should also know that the world is gradually switching from static sites to dynamic ones and this is where programming languages make the difference. More people now rely on websites to get information to quench their curiosity. More people now go online to get enrichment and entertainment as all this is made possible by the rising number of dynamic sites.

In between all this, PHP has been a key driver of developing websites to add a new dimension to user engagement. No other scripting or programming languages are used as extensively as this one when it comes to web development. Web developers find this language easy to use and equally simple to understand. It makes development easier for pros and newcomers alike as there is no complexity attached with this language. More so, it’s clean and organized and developers face absolutely no problem in working with it. At the same time, more control over websites are delivered to developers.

Similarly, a few lines of codes are enough in PHP to complete the same sets of functions that often take long scripts in other languages. It’s an open source language and editing is not only easy but available to anyone and everyone. This also gives businesses an opportunity to get their web projects completed in a cost-effective manner. More so, it works well with various databases, services and languages together with showing total compatibility with CSS and HTML. Since its scripts can have tags, this is how web content is made dynamic to let user benefit from them.

More so, PHP gives the freedom of writing codes and functions within a document without following any set order, which is often the case with most other scripting languages. As a result, neither do codes need any kind of management nor their ordering poses any issues to developers. For businesses, it comes as an economical way of completing their web development goals without needing costly software or without purchasing licences. Not to forget, all popular open source technologies have a huge following and this scripting language is no exception. There is no dearth of references and guidelines for users.

Furthermore, PHP makes access to support easy thanks to its ever-growing community of users and developers alike. Not only learning of this language is easy but one can easily find code and command to rewrite and reuse to boost the familiarity with it. In overall, your business can get all these features as soon as it decides to hire dedicated PHP developers. So, the time has come to make a move from static to dynamic and understand the pulse of the modern users better. After all, your site needs to be a good source of information to users on the internet.

WCAG 2.0: The New W3C Web Accessibility Guidelines Evaluated

August 9th, 2018

The second version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is in final working draft and will soon be officially released. Version 1 of the guidelines ( http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/full-checklist.html ) came under much criticism for being vague, full of jargon and extremely difficult to use. The W3C has been working on version 2.0 of the guidelines ( [http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/appendixB.html] ) for over 5 years now, but has it been worth the wait?

What’s good about WCAG 2.0?

There have certainly been a number of improvements made to the new guidelines. This is of course to be expected – after 5 years you would expect some improvement! Some of these improvements include:

1. Outdated guidelines removed

A number of guidelines from WCAG 1.0 are well out-of-date. Unfortunately, web developers still implement these out-dated guidelines because they don’t know otherwise. Rather than go on an accessibility training course and learn ‘real-world’ accessibility, many web developers and manager tick boxes against guidelines.

Some of the out-of-date WCAG 1.0 guidelines, which have been removed from WCAG 2.0 include:

* 1.5 – Provide equivalent text links for links within client-side image maps

* 5.6 – Provide abbreviations for table header labels, if you use these

* 9.5 – Use access keys (keyboard shortcuts) for important links

* 10.3 – Don’t use tables with more than one column for layout

* 10.4 – Make sure form fields aren’t empty by default

* 10.5 – Ensure different links have non-link text between them

(Please note, the above isn’t the exact wording of the guidelines – each of the original guidelines has been translated from the official W3C guideline into more easy-to-understand language.)

The above guidelines have all been removed from WCAG 2.0, so shouldn’t be adhered to.

2. Good real world techniques provided

The document, Techniques for WCAG 2.0 ( http://www.w3.org/TR/2006/WD-WCAG20-TECHS-20060427/Overview.html ) replaces the previous techniques document, and is actually much better. It provides a list of common failures, which the previous version didn’t, and actually offers some excellent examples of common errors.

The other major improvement in this techniques document is that the examples provided are far more real-world. The WCAG 1.0 techniques document used text such as PortMaster 3 with ComOS 3.7.1 in their examples, but who has any idea what this means? The new document is far better in this respect, using examples such as phone numbers and calendars, for example.

The techniques document also provides some clever recommendations, which accessibility guideline box-ticking developers wouldn’t perhaps have thought have. For example:

* How to open a link in a new window using unobtrusive JavaScript

* Displaying decorative images through CSS

* Combining text and its adjacent image image in the same link

* Providing a heading at the beginning of each section on the page

…And many more! Do have a good look at the WCAG 2.0 techniques document as there’s lots of useful guidance here using quite easy-to-understand examples.

3. New guidelines included

A number of new guidelines have been brought into WCAG 2.0. Some of these guidelines are totally new whereas others were hinted at, but not specifically stated, in WCAG 1.0. Some examples include:

* Providing text-based error messages for forms

* Ensure all pages have a descriptive title

* Background noise can be turned off

For a full list of brand new guidelines that don’t map to any version 1 guidelines, have a look at the W3C’s Comparison of WCAG 1.0 checkpoints to WCAG 2.0 ( [http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/appendixD.html#newl1] ).

What’s not good about WCAG 2.0?

So there certainly have been some improvements made to the W3C accessibility guidelines. But is it all good news? Have the problems associated with WCAG 1.0 been eliminated for this version 2 of the guidelines? Well not quite, as there are still a number of problems…

1. Verbose and jargon-filled language

One of the main criticisms aimed at WCAG 1.0 was the complexity of the language used. Have things improved? Hardly! Pretty much every paragraph is littered with jargon that the average web developer or web manager would be left with no clue as to the meaning.

Clearly aware of the level of jargon, the W3C have made complex terms green underlined links, linking to definitions. This is all well and good in theory, but when most sentences are broken up with one or two links it makes reading these sentences quite difficult.

Even worse though, is that the definitions are just as jargon-filled and difficult to understand as the term being defined! For example:

* Authored unit – Set of material created as a single body by an author

* Programmatically determined – Determined by software from data provided in a user-agent-supported manner such that the user agents can extract and present this information to users in different modalities

* Specific sensory experience – A sensory experience that is not purely decorative and does not primarily convey important information or perform a function

* Web unit – A collection of information, consisting of one or more resources, intended to be rendered together, and identified by a single Uniform Resource Identifier (such as URLs)

Ironically, there’s even a definition provided for the word ‘jargon’!

Furthermore, it seems that some jargon used in WCAG 1.0, which webmasters have gotten used to, has been replaced with equally incomprehensible words. For example, we no longer have Priority 1, 2 and 3 to aim for – instead we now have success criteria level 1, 2 and 3.

2. Awful usability

Another major criticism of the WCAG 1.0 guidelines was how difficult it is to find specific guidance and answers. It doesn’t take too long to discover that the WCAG 2.0 guidelines quite clearly offer the same low level of usability.

Reasons for this poor usability include:

* The level of jargon and complexity of language is truly phenomenal (as outlined above)

* The text is littered with links making it very difficult to read

* The two main documents, Understanding WCAG 2.0 ( http://www.w3.org/TR/UNDERSTANDING-WCAG20/ ) and Techniques for WCAG 2.0 ( http://www.w3.org/TR/2006/WD-WCAG20-TECHS-20060427/Overview.html ) are 164 and 363 pages long in total (when doing a print preview)

If only the W3C carried out basic usability testing of how people actually use (or are unable to use) these guidelines! What they’d undoubtedly find is that users won’t understand most guidelines and will end up blindly clicking links to find out how to meet these guidelines.

As with WCAG 1.0, clicking on most links from the WCAG 2.0 guidelines simply takes users into the middle of massive pages full of difficult-to-understand text. The text, of course, is densely littered with links. Users will probably click on a link again in the desperate hope that they’ll somehow find some text that clearly and succinctly explains what they need to do. They’ll usually be disappointed.

Organising the massive amount of content available is certainly not an easy task – but why not, as a start, split up these massive documents into more manageable and less intimidating sets of smaller documents? Then, carry out some usability testing, refine, and test again.

3. Useful guidelines gone

Although there are a number of useful, new guidelines in WCAG 2.0, a number of important guidelines from WCAG 1.0 have been removed or are only vaguely referred to. These include, but aren’t limited to:

* 3.1 – Avoid embedding text within images.

* 3.2 – Create documents that validate.

* 3.3 – Use CSS and not tables for layout.

* 3.4 – Ensure text is resizable.

* 12.3 – Divide large blocks of information into more manageable groups where natural and appropriate.

* 13.8 – Place distinguishing information at the beginning of headings, paragraphs, lists, etc.

* 14.1 – Use clear and simple language.

(Please note, the above isn’t the exact wording of the guidelines – each of the original guidelines has been translated from the official W3C guideline into more easy-to-understand language.)

Particularly worrying is the removal of the final three guidelines, all of which relate to the accessibility of content. A major part of any website’s accessibility, and one that’s often overlooked, is the site’s usability and how the content is written and structured.

Accessible content is crucial for all special needs users, particularly those with learning difficulties and dyslexia. Perhaps the reason these guidelines have been removed is because content guidelines are fluffier and harder to measure than technical accessibility guidelines. Whatever the reason, this is not a good step for accessibility.

4. Technology neutral and the concept of the baseline

WCAG 1.0 states quite clearly that alternatives to JavaScript, PDFs and Flash must all be provided, as assistive technologies such as screen readers can’t access these. Although this was generally true in 1999, it’s not the case now, and nowadays JavaScript, PDFs and Flash can all be made accessible to most assistive technologies. (Remember, ‘can be’ is not the same as ‘are’.)

Version 1 of the accessibility guidelines became quite outdated rather quickly. To prevent this from happening to version 2 of the accessibility guidelines, the W3C have attempted to make WCAG 2.0 technology-neutral. Sounds sensible as now the guidelines won’t become outdated so quickly, right?

In practice, what this means is that the WCAG 2.0 guidelines are extremely vague. So vague, in fact, that they’re almost unusable as they talk in such generic terms.

Additionally, the concept of the baseline has now been introduced, where by webmasters can claim which technologies they assume are supported by site visitors’ browsers. So, if you build a website entirely in Flash and say that Flash is part of your baseline, your website can conform with all the guidelines despite the fact that some people won’t be able to access your site at all!

Discussion

So, was the wait worth it? We’ve waited over 5 years for WCAG 2.0 and certainly a number of improvements have been made. Worryingly though, the guidelines continue to be very difficult to actually use, further discouraging webmasters from reading them. The extra vagueness of these new guidelines certainly doesn’t help either.

The W3C just doesn’t seem to get it: People don’t generally want to read through hundreds of pages of text to find out how to implement accessible solutions – they just want answers and specific guidance. For most people, accessibility is just one small part of their job and they don’t have time for all this.

Webmasters are also now being asked to choose a baseline for their website but how do they even begin to go about doing this!? How would you as a web developer explain the concept of a baseline to senior management? How do you decide what you should do so as to comply with any legal requirements? Unfortunately there’s no correct answer to either of these questions.

Solution?

A solution could be that the W3C simply provides specific guidelines for what web developers and managers actually have to do. Much of this information is already there on their website, but it’s hidden away in the enormous and intimidating Techniques for WCAG 2.0 document. This document could be broken down into manageable chunks, added to and refined, and focus on providing specific, real world guidelines.

Guidelines should be relevant and specific to today’s technology, but would be updated on an on-going basis so as to make sure they don’t become too dated. Why did we have to wait over five years for version 2.0? Why couldn’t we have received versions 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 and so on during this time? This would surely have prevented WCAG 1.0 becoming out-dated as quickly as it did?

Most importantly though, the whole WCAG 2.0 section on the W3C website needs to have usability testing carried out on it. The benefits of usability testing are pretty well known by now, and it’s quite clear that the W3C has very little idea how real users are interacting with the website. By carrying out ongoing usability testing, the W3C can learn about its users and ultimately aim for an easy-to-understand and intuitive website.

Build an Instant Web Site With Joomla Open Source Software

August 8th, 2018

Joomla is an easy to use software program for web site design and content management. It is free for the download because it is Open Source software. This means programmers and developers have written software not for profit, but to benefit the user community. The Firefox Internet browser, an alternative to Microsoft Internet Explorer, and Open Office, an alternative to Microsoft Office, are other examples of Open Source Software.

The difference between Joomla and other web design software systems, is that there are thousands of fully functional, complete web site templates available on the Internet, so that all you have to do is choose a layout that you like and add content to it.

The description of Joomla as a “Content Management System” is one that software developers use, but that does not tell the whole story. Joomla is really all about building an instant web site at no charge to the user. You may have seen different kinds of web site builders on the Internet. Sometimes they are offered for free from hosting companies. They basically give you a banner graphic at the top and bottom of the page, and you are left to design the entire layout and the rest of the site yourself.

I have found that most web design software works well, if you have a flair for design, (which I don’t), but to me it all just seems like specialized desktop publishing for the Internet. Joomla, is very different, it is a database. Unlike desktop publishing or web design software, it is designed to share the development of web designers that have already developed working web sites. You can, add content and change things around as you desire, but the layout has already been set-up. All of the links work, and most of the template sites have many useful options, contact forms, a blog page, news feeds, and RSS. Whenever you want to change the content and add pictures, or text, it is very easy to do. You merely turn on and off items, and make small adjustments step by step as you are ready to add content, to make your site come alive.

I have some limited experience in web design, and I know enough to realize that I don’t have the eye for graphic design. In fact, if I had to make a living on my artistic skills, I would probably be one of the world’s most hungry artists. I know a bit of HTML, but not nearly enough to design a web site from scratch. Joomla is easy to use, and add my own content, without worrying about the design elements of the site.

I used several web design packages years ago, and I recently repurchased one leading web design software package to help a friend get a web site set up. I mistakenly thought that after so many years, the software would have fully developed templates for a variety of different types of web sites. But I was wrong ! There still were no templates available that met my satisfaction. The templates that were available were generic, and still required you to do the design yourself.

If you have ever hired a web designer, (not to take anything at all away from their skills, and expertise), it can be rather expensive. Additional features and functionality obviously cost more, and there are maintenance issues to update content on a regular basis. Any SEO strategy is helped by frequent updates of quality content. This is something that is very good for you to have control over, since paying a web designer on a monthly retainer to make changes may be a costly proposition. The more often you add content the better the search engines like it, so it is best to gain control yourself over your web site to be able to update content on your own.

If you are lucky enough to find web site templates on the Internet, it doesn’t mean that they will be organized the way you like. If you want a full blown web site you usually have to pay for it. You may also have trouble adding things such as your own text and graphics, if the site did not have these elements already.

Joomla, on the other hand, encourages you to customize the content your own way. It was designed for this purpose. There are literally thousands of Joomla templates available on the Internet, free to download, and all can be customized to add your own content. The appearance of the site is done for you already, but with thousands of pre-designed sites to choose from, you are sure to find one that you like.

One of the very interesting things about Joomla, is that if you want to change the look and feel of your site, it can be done very simply with a few clicks of the mouse. This is something that could cause quite a headache for most web designers, but it is a very simply matter with Joomla. There may be a few small adjustments to be made, but it is quite a surprise to see how easily it can be done. This is a very unique functionality that I have never seen in web design software. Joomla accomplishes it easily because of it’s database design. In fact, you can change the site quite quickly, simply by turning components on and off. In addition to free software and templates, there are a number of plug-ins to add more specific functionality. Some are free, and some are not.

I have been looking for something like Joomla for years. I had tried to find something similar with commercial software, but I could not. In fact, my web hosting company, (see below link), had Joomla pre-installed on the site, so I didn’t even have to FTP Joomla software to my web site.

Joomla is also very search engine friendly. Google will usually visit a Joomla site on a regular basis, due to the frequent content changes that result from the news feeds. They are usually updated on a daily basis, even if the web site is not updated on a regular basis. These news feeds are available on many of the Joomla templates.

Another big advantage with Joomla is that it is very easy to use. It is not necessarily recommended computer users who are brand new to the Internet. Although it is not for the rank beginner, but if you are reasonably comfortable with computers, and the Internet, Joomla could be for you. It doesn’t require any programming or special expertise, so it is still a program for novices. The most challenging part of Joomla is the installation, which is usually quite simple, if you are familiar with FTP. It should also be mentioned that you have to be careful to verify that any optional modules you want to install have been verified for the specific version of Joomla that you have. For example, you would not want to install something that was designed for a more recent version than the one you have installed.

Below, I have listed a source for free Joomla and Internet marketing training.

Here are some Joomla resources.

Joomla Open Source Web Site

More than 1300 Free Joomla templates

(Just type “free Joomla templates” into Google for more sites.)

Free Joomla and Internet Marketing training. Veretekk Internet Marketing and Joomla training After sign-up, check the calendar under Veretraining for Maurice Young’s Monday evening training.

Lunar pages free Joomla