Tag Archives: technique

Autodidactisism: The Concept of Learnability in Web Development

web development tips

Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime. Now that artificial intelligence (AI) development has ramped up considerably, various prominent thinkers have floated the idea of a universal basic income as one proposal to combat the potentially reduced amount of jobs that would be taken over by AI and that particular cliche has been on my mind quite a lot. The idea behind the quote is rather simple, instead of simply giving someone what they need, give them the ability to obtain what they need by themselves.

I like to think of myself as a progressive but perhaps because it’s because of the values my family have instilled in me, I believe in the idea of making a living out of an honest day’s work. Self-sufficiency has always been a concept that I found to be admirable, which is why the idea of a universal basic income isn’t something I’m ideologically on board with, even if I know it is somewhat inevitable. It’s also thanks this belief that I’m a huge proponent of the concept of learnability in web development and software development in general, as it promotes the idea of self-sufficiency on behalf of the users.

Learning the ropes in web development

You know how when you’re just starting out on a video game, you’re inevitably be presented with a tutorial of some sorts that shows you how to play the game? In the video game industry, this tutorial is usually divided into two broad categories, the hand-holding approach and the hands-off approach. The hand-holding approach takes its name from how parents usually hold their children hands whenever they’re together. In the hand-holding approach, players are practically infantilized in that the game basically tells them everything they need to do in order to play the game.

The hands-off approach uses a different tack in that it doesn’t force this information down player’s throat and instead acts more like general pointers that players are free to ignore. I’ve always despised the former approach because when a game needs to have its mechanics explained in full detail, that’s either a sign of bad design or a lack of faith in the developer’s part for the players. Good design shouldn’t be obtuse, it has to be something that is easily recognizable and learnable even without excessive hand-holding, which is where the concept of learnability comes in.

Websites are nowhere as complex or as interactive as a full-fledged video game but as technology progresses, websites now have considerably more features baked in compared to how it was a decade ago. Web developers then have to figure out a way to make sure that users are capable of using these features the way it was supposed to without excessively overwhelming them with tutorials and guides. This is especially important in web apps as they’re considerably more interactive than the typical websites.

Familiarity breeds security

If you’ve ever spent a prolonged amount of time away from what you refer to as home, then you’d no doubt be familiar with the idea of comfort food. For the South Asian diaspora for example, something as simple as a yogurt starter is enough for them to bring the comforts of their homeland into wherever they currently live. The usual insult thrown at familiarity is that it breeds contempt but it can also breeds security (and in the case of comfort food, affection) and this no truer than in the world of web and software development.

There are a number of free office programs you could use as an alternative to Microsoft Office but you would also notice that practically every single one of them uses a visually similar interface. I typically use Google Docs for my office needs but I also have Open Office installed for emergencies and moving between these two and Microsoft Office installed on my work computer is as seamless as it gets. The icons used are mostly similar and the options & features are located and labeled just as how I expect them to be.

The easiest way of making your website easy to learn is by following on what is considered best practices. A magnifying glass or a box labeled ‘search’ would be used for the search function. An image of a shopping cart opens up items that you’ve placed in your virtual shopping cart and an envelope, even though almost no one sends physical mail anymore, is used for the built-in messaging feature. Clicking on your username or profile picture would lead to your profile page. All of the above concepts are considered industry standards and to provide a seamless experience for users, don’t ignore them.

Use microinteraction features

You walked into an unfamiliar office building for a meeting on the 15th floor but when you pressed the elevator button, you noticed it doesn’t light up the way you expected it to. You automatically assume that the elevator is out of service so you tried the elevator on the opposite of the hallway and you noticed the same thing. You then asked the receptionist at the lobby if the entire elevator is out of service and then they answered that the elevator actually works, it’s just that the buttons don’t light up. Microinteractions are small but they are essential as is the case with elevators and for websites.

Microinteractions are the little things that act as a signifier to confirm that the user has performed a certain action. A filled heart sign when you liked a post on Instagram for example or things flying to your virtual shopping cart whenever you add an item in an e-commerce site. Microinteractions are useful to provide clarity as it could prevent users from performing the same action twice, something that I tend to do when the internet is spotty.

Always try to keep it simple

One thing I heavily dislike about reading fantasy books is that typically, even before I arrive at the first page and their plethora of made-up words, I’m going to be presented with a bunch of supplementary information that is central to the book’s lore. I find this to be seriously off-putting as the last thing any writer should do is to overwhelm the readers with information, and this philosophy is also true to the world of web development.

Always strive to keep your homepage simple, which can be especially important for e-commerce sites that feature thousands of different products. Web apps tend to be guilty of this as well, providing dozens of unnecessary options and features that might not be necessary to the majority of users. Having lots of features are great but unless they’re essential, hiding them behind a menu might be more preferable so as to not make your interface became too cluttered.

The Million-Dollar Question: How Answering Questions Can Help Your SEO Efforts

SEO tips

In the twenty plus years since the internet was made publicly available and a decade since the iPhone made it possible for us to access the internet almost all the time, we now rely on the internet for almost everything. We use the internet for dating, to watch a film, to listen to music, to order food, to get a ride somewhere or to simply talk among ourselves. Because of these various roles the internet has now filled within our lives, it’s easy to forget what it was designed for in the first place, to provide an easy mean of exchanging information.

Technically, exchanging information is still what the internet is primarily used for. The various social media platforms available are an extension of that but it’s the kind of thing that people tend to easily forget given just how versatile the internet now is these days. Whenever I stumble upon a word I don’t recognize in a book or when I want to check some trivial information about a famous person, the internet is what I use to answer those questions. To help answer a question remains one of the most popular uses of the internet and knowing how to take advantage of this fact could be very useful for SEO services and marketers.

The changing roles of a search engine

It used to be that when you’re trying to find an answer to a simple question, like “how old Nicole Kidman is”, you type the quoted phrase into a search engine and the search engine will show you a list of pages where the answer to that question might be found. Usually, you’re just going to be led into the Wikipedia page of Nicole Kidman, where her detailed birth date can be found. However, if you type that phrase into Google now, you’re going to be presented with a direct answer (she’s 51 years old FYI) plus a short biography taken from Wikipedia for good measure.

Search engines no longer act as a signpost that tells you where something can be found, they’ve begun to act more and more like a place where those answers can be found, even if technically, they pull that answer from other places. By taking advantage of this feature, it is possible for a page from your website to be featured prominently, above the rest of the results, on a given search engines results page (SERP), which can potentially draw a huge amount of web traffic your way. If you’re thinking of optimizing your content for questions, you might want to take note of the following.

Avoid optimizing for questions with short, easy and direct answers

The Nicole Kidman’s age question above is an example of this. Because of the nature of the answer, Google could simply pull the answer out of your page and display them on the SERP, which is going to effectively stop any traffic coming your way. Sure, the URL for your website might get some prime real estate at the top of the page but have you ever actually paid any attention to the URL when you’re using Google? I honestly don’t know anyone who does.

The idea is then to look for questions commonly asked of your industry that either can’t be answered in a single sentence or one that would need to be backed up by a solid argument. On the other hand, you’d want to provide a summary of sorts for Google that partly answers the question while giving a tantalizing glimpse of what users might found on the actual page. You want to give them enough to be interested but not too much that they’re satisfied with what you’ve already given them.

Use the inverted pyramid approach

The inverted pyramid approach is what I like to call good journalism. In this age of clickbait and misleading headlines, it’s very common to see overly melodramatic article titles that don’t really tell you anything and whose sole purpose is to entice unsuspecting users into seeing the story, which tends to have an anti-climatic result. The oft-cited headline ‘Man tries to hug a wild lion, you won’t believe what happens next’ is one example of a clickbait headline.

This ultimately meaningless headline is in contrast with the practice of quality journalism, which tends to be forthcoming with the gist of the story and uses the article to fill out the details. As I’m typing this for example, a headline in The New York Times simply states ‘Alternate Brexit plans rejected, Theresa May offers to step down’. With the inverted pyramid approach, you already have an idea on what the article is going to tell you.

In this approach, you start with an answer and then fill in the rest with the details and the context of how that answer came to be. This approach fits in with the point above, by giving out a summary or a shortened version of the answer, you provide enough information to the readers but in order to understand the big picture, they’re going to have to read the rest of your article. As with journalism, this approach helps build your credibility as publication that has to resort to clickbait headlines is never going to be taken seriously.

Take advantage of the ‘People also ask’ feature in Google

So you’ve landed on a popular question with no easy answers related to your field of business that has a potential to draw traffic to your website but optimizing the content for your website around a single question isn’t practical so you’re going to have to find more questions to optimize for. The good news is that you can use that one question in your repertoire to find related questions easily by using the ‘People also ask’ feature in Google. Try typing that question into Google and see what happens.

In Google, right under the featured answer at the top of SERP is the ‘People also ask’ (PAA) column, which is a list of expandable questions that are related to the question you typed into Google. If I ask Google on ‘who is the best F1 driver of all time’, the PAA column list questions such as ‘who is the most successful F1 driver’ and ‘who is the highest paid F1 driver of 2018’. Clicking on those questions will open up more questions relating to the ones I’ve just clicked.

By taking advantage of the PAA column, you could land on an ever-growing list of questions in your industry that you could optimize for. Combine this list of questions with keyword research tools to ensure that the question you’re optimizing for is actually getting some heavy traffic. What’s also great about the PAA column is that each of the questions listed there also have their own featured answer, giving SEO services and marketers more opportunity to be featured in a given SERP.

Like Moths to a Flame: 4 Ways in How to Attract More Customers to Your Website

web development tips

We’ve arrived at an age where quality is actually not a primary concern; it’s discoverability that’s the issue. A couple of months ago, I was looking for a new pair of shoes to wear semi-daily for work. Since I’m going to be abusing this pair of shoes, so to speak, for an extended period of time, I was looking for something that would look good on a meeting while still being rugged enough to handle my commute and cheap enough that I won’t feel guilty when I have to step into a puddle or whatever. Clearly, I was up for quite a challenge.

To my surprise, I actually managed to find a pair that fits most of the above requirements while being somewhat above of my intended price range. Still, I ended up buying that pair of shoes only to later on find another pair from another brand that also meets the above requirements while still being considerably cheaper. Given the amount of things available on the internet, it’s very likely that it has everything you’re looking for, the issue in web development is how to make it so that you’re easier to find in the first place.

Getting some time on the spotlight

Take for example the online dating app Tinder. In the app, there’s a premium feature named ‘Boost’ that would enable your profile to jump ahead of the queue and be instantly displayed on other Tinder users around you. It costs money and since I’m cheap, I’ve never personally used it and I’ve been regularly getting matches anyway but a close friend of mine have a Tinder Plus account and I’ve seen firsthand just how useful this Boost feature can be.

Of course, getting a match is far easier than to land an actual date but you’d be in a much better place compared to those still swiping for matches and the same thing applies to web development. Sure, having a high-quality website, products and contents are definitely important but those are a moot point if you can’t even get people to actually see your website in the first place. There’s so much data floating around the internet that I don’t think anyone has actually come up with an estimate, which is why you should seriously consider these ways in attracting more potential customers to your website.

Blogging

Yep, you read that right. What used to be an outlet for angsty and emotional teenagers to rile against the collective world is now considered one of the primary drivers for traffic. This isn’t much of a surprise, one of the main things people learn to use the internet for is to look up things on Google and when you’re looking for answers to a question that Wikipedia can’t answer, search engines would usually lead you to blog posts. To this day, the majority of websites I visit are blogs.

I regularly visit music blogs like Stereogum and Pitchfork because their website came up when I was looking for reviews on a particular album and that’s just one example. Blogs are a great way of showcasing your knowledge or point of view in your own terms and people are always looking for writings on a topic they care about, making blogging a valuable channel to introduce yourself to people. I found that people are all natural writers when it comes to things they care about so if you haven’t tried blogging yet, now would be a good time to start.

Having a presence on social media

The likes of the Kardashian-Jenner clan managed to build a multi-million dollar empire thanks to their presence on social media. It doesn’t matter where your opinion lies on their existence because you can’t deny just how much social media have helped them to where they are now. For a more conventional example, look at how the watch brand Daniel Wellington became the poster boy for 21st century marketing through their clever use of social media.

Of course, learning to do social media properly can be a bit tricky and even with the amount of time and effort you’re putting into this, it’s actually very possible that you might not hit the target you set out for yourself when it comes to social media. Still, given the outsized success of the examples I’ve mentioned above, social media is definitely something worth trying out and there are a bucketload of tips you could find online you could use to help you with this. It’s not like it’s going to hurt your business anyway.

Use promotions and giveaways

When Epic, the company behind the global video game hit Fortnite decided to open up a digital video game platform of their own, the aptly named Epic Games Store, they did so by offering gamers one free game every two weeks. The free games are decided by Epic and given the still-limited offering available at their stores, it probably won’t be to everybody’s liking but so far, I found the offering to be more than decent. Still, everybody likes free stuffs and if they like what you’re giving, there’s a good chance they’ll come back for a second round.

Leverage the power of YouTube and video marketing

A report from the entertainment publication Variety that came out in 2014 details just how popular YouTube celebrities are among the younger member of the population. Do you even recognize the name Smosh, The Fine Bros., PewDiePie, KSI and Ryan Higa? I’m ashamed to say that I don’t and I have it on good authority that I’m better read than the majority of my peers. I wouldn’t even know who Logan Paul was if it wasn’t for that Aokigahara scandal. My point is, YouTube can feel like a world unto its own and it would be a huge waste for businesses to not try and tap into that world.