Word of the Day – Page Parking and Parallel Browsing (Web Browser Tab Usage)

From Jakob Nielsen:

Summary: Browser tabs separate the stages of collection and comparing and serve as memory aids to keep many alternate pages available for consideration as users are shopping or researching. Follow 7 UX guidelines to better support this user behavior, which is particularly common among younger users.

How do people use the tabs in modern browsers? The ability to keep multiple pages open at the same time in different tabs can be used for parallel browsing, where a user alternates between tasks and resurfaces a tab when it’s time to work on the task in that tab. For example, a user might keep Facebook open all day in a tab that’s checked for updates from time to time.

Our recent user studies for the course Designing for Millennials found that young adult users engage in another tab-related behavior, which we call page parking: opening multiple pages in rapid-fire succession as a way to save the items on those pages and revisit them at a later stage. This behavior often occurs when shopping, researching, or reading news, but can happen in any task where it’s useful to open several similar items, each in a separate tab. Later, after users review the content in the tabs, they may cross off many of the parked items and close the corresponding tabs.

Previous WOTDJenny Haniver

Court: Not infringement to use competitor’s trademark in Google AdWords

Harvard Journal of Law and TechnologyUsing a Competitor’s Trademark as a Keyword for AdWords is Not Trademark Infringement:

The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held that the use of a competitor’s trademark as a keyword that activates sponsored links in Google’s search engine is not trademark infringement. 1-800 Contacts, Inc. v. Lens.com, Inc., No. 11-4114, -4204, -4022 (10th Cir. July 16, 2013). The court affirmed the lower court’s summary judgment to defendant Lens.com with respect to 1-800 Contacts’ claim that Lens.com was directly liable for misdirecting customers to click on links to Lens.com after searching for the phrase “1-800 Contacts.” Id. at 4.

That’s what a court found, which isn’t to say that Google has to have the same rules. After this 2013 court ruling, Google changed their policy. Now they allow trademarked terms for keywords. They still block at least some trademarked terms from being used in the text of the ads depending on the usage, and trademark holders can file a complaint.

Did someone just try to hijack the lesjones.com domain?

I got this email from GoDaddy saying that the transfer of lesjones.com to GoDaddy failed. I didn’t try to transfer my domain. So what happened – did someone try to hijack the domain? Read more of this post

Run PHP code in a WordPress widget

I had an advertiser who wanted his link to appear in the right sidebar of the site, but only on the home page of site. Sidebar widgets usually appear throughout the site, so I had to figure out how to make it work.

I knew WordPress supported an is_home() conditional statement, but PHP code can only be executed in themes and plugins, not in free text/HTML. I tried inserting the code into the functions.php code, but never got it to work exactly right.

It turns out there’s a WordPress plugin called PHP Code Widget that lets you execute PHP code inside a widget. Just type it in along with your text and HTML and it works. Here’s the code:

<?php if( is_home() ) : ?>
Text and HTML go here and will appear only on the home page.
<?php endif;?>

Words of the Day – Gray/Black/Brown Thursday and Green Monday

Things change, including where people buy stuff that people want. From downtown shops to the strip mall. Strip mall to indoor mall. Indoor mall to big box store. Big box store to online store.

People not only change where they shop, but when. Besides Black Friday and Cyber Monday there are new super dooper holiday sales days. I knew about Gray Thursday from my wife. She took our oldest daughter out to shop at 8 PM Thanksgiving night and didn’t come back until 3:00 AM.

In recent years, retailers have been trending towards opening on Black Thursday, occurring Thanksgiving evening. In 2011, Walmart began its holiday sale at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day for the first time. In 2012, Walmart began its Black Friday sales at 8 p.m. the day before on Thanksgiving; stores that are normally open 24 hours a day on a regular basis started their sales at this time, while stores that do not have round-the-clock shopping hours opened at 8 p.m. Competitors Sears and Kmart will also be opening at 8 p.m. on Thursday night, while Target and Toys “R” Us will be opening at 9 p.m.

A number of media sources began referring to this instead by either the name Gray Thursday[55][56] or Brown Thursday.[57]

Green Monday on the other hand was a new one on me until the news started covering it this morning.

Green Monday is an online retail industry term similar to Cyber Monday. The term was coined[1] by eBay to describe its best sales day in December,[2] usually the second Monday of December. Green Monday is defined more specifically by business research organization comScore as the Monday with at least 10 days prior to Christmas. In 2009, $854 million was spent online in the US on Green Monday,[3] with sales in 2011 reaching $1.133 billion.[4] In 2012, Green Monday topped out at $1.27 billion, up 13% from 2011 and the third heaviest online sales day for the season behind Cyber Monday and, randomly, Dec. 4, 2012, according to comScore.[5]

Here’s a fine infographic on Cyber Monday. Thanks, Roger.

Read more of this post

Cloudflare Update Week 2

Last week saw a 17% increase in page speed compared to the control period before using Cloudflare. I had a feeling I wasn’t seeing the full speed boost. Because lesjones.com has so many pages and images, it seemed likely that Cloudflare hadn’t seen them yet, so it hadn’t cached them.

To solve that problem I ran a linkchecker that accessed every linked page and embedded image on the site. That seems to have helped. Compared to the control period, performance has improved 34%. For my site that’s an average load time that’s about 2.3 seconds faster. Not bad at all considering it took almost no effort.


Cloudflare Results in Google Analytics

One thing that concerns me is that the page load sample for last week was extremely small – just seven pages compared to 24 for the control period. For various reasons Google Analytics can’t* and doesn’t** collect page timings for all pages.


Both of those page load samples are very small as a percentage of traffic – just 0.45 for last week. At work the number is about 16%. I’m really not sure why the sample here is so small, but I’m going to continue the test for another week to be sure the results aren’t a fluke.

* From Google Analytics Help: “Site speed tracking occurs only for visits from those browsers that support the HTML5 Navigation Timing interface or have the Google Toolbar installed. Typically this includes: Chrome, Firefox 7 and above, Internet Explorer 9 and above, Android 4.0 browser and above, as well as earlier versions of Internet Explorer with the Google Toolbar installed.”

** That same help section says that “By default, a fixed 1% sampling of your site visitors make up the data pool from which the page timing metrics are derived.” However, that doesn’t match the numbers on this site or the one I manage at work.

Turning on Cloudflare

Speed is good – there are plenty of studies linking server speed and sales conversions on e-commerce sites. I’ve set a goal of getting our average page load time below three seconds as measured by Google Analytics.

One way to speed up a website is to use a Content Delivery Network (CDN). CDNs use a number of techniques to speed up content delivery.

CDNs have locations around the world, hence the network part of the name. When a file is requested the CDN determines the quickest path to get the file to the user, based on their location and network path. CDNs also tend to be lightning fast in terms of DNS response, redirect time, server response time, and Internet connection speed.

I’ve been making baby steps towards using a CDN at the e-commerce website I manage. With just some small changes the speed difference has been tremendous. The CDN is delivering static files like images, JavaScripts, and CSS files two, three, four times faster than we can. Besides delivering files faster, the CDN is offloading those requests from our server and Internet connection to theirs. That should make the server respond better to the requests it’s still handling, such as dynamic pages.

Right now we’re just using the CDN to serve out header and footer template images – things like the logo, navigation buttons, and CSS and Javascripts that are common to most pages. To really take advantage of the CDN we need to use it to serve product images, of which we have many thousands and which account for the majority of our downloads. The challenge is that as new products are created and new product images are uploaded, we’d need some way to make sure the new images are synced with the CDN.

One way to sync them is to select a CDN that supports caching reverse proxy. We upload the image. Our e-commerce system will put it in the right directories on our servers, such as/images/product/image.jpg. We change our templates to call the images from the CDN instead of our server using the same directory path, such as http://www.cdn.com/images/product/image.jpg. The first time the file is requested from the CDN it will realize it doesn’t have it, then look for the file on our website in the same directory. From then on the CDN caches the file and serves the file from its own servers.

Another way to move all of the images to the CDN is CloudFlare. Instead of changing URLs and uploading files, you just change your domain records to point your domain’s IP address to CloudFlare. All requests for anything on your site goes through CloudFlare. They cache the content that comes from your site and then serve it out over their CDN the next time it’s requested. All of your URLs stay exactly the same. The basic plan is free. Paid plans add some interesting features, like DDoS protection, additional speed enhancements, and mobile optimization.

Read more of this post

Netflix for Legos

Pleygo Is Basically Netflix for Legos

Come to think of it, you could use the Netflix model for lots of things.

Something Evil About Robots.txt I Didn’t Know

Quick background: A robots.txt file on your website will tell search engines and other bots that obey the robot exclusion standard what files and folders they can and can’t index, or whether they can access the website at all.

I’ve been working on the robots.txt file at work the last few days.* Once the file had the bots I wanted to exclude I decided to run it through a robots.txt validator.

Boy did I learn a few things. It turns out that you should put robot exclusions at the top and directory and file exclusions below. There were also a few minor formatting issues that I’m not sure really mattered.

There was one, however, that was a shock. Let’s say you’ve got a folder called “video”. There’s a huge difference between these two disallow statements:

Disallow: /video/
Disallow: /video

The first example with a trailing slash tells robots not to index anything in the video directory. So far so good. The second example without a trailing slash tells robots not to index anything in the video directory, or any file at the root level with video at the beginning of the filename.

Without the trailing slash, you would exclude /video.html, videoplayer.aspx – you name it. Anything at the same level of the directory structure that begins with video. You can get into trouble in a hurry if you leave the backslash off of the disallow directive.

* What prompted the work was all of the bots that kept showing up in our error files. One of the worst? The Internet Archive Bot that collects pages for the Internet Archive. It would generate hundreds of errors a day. When I looked around at bot ban lists the IA bot showed up over and over. You’d think Internet Archive would  have worked the bugs out of their bot by now.

Why I Ignore Emails from People Who Promise to Improve My Google Position

Any time someone offers to improve my Google position I ignore them. It’s a waste of time talking to them. The email you received was canned. The SEO they offer is canned, likely hasn’t worked in five years, and may get you banned from Google’s index. Their money back guarantees are worthless (most of them are overseas – good luck pursuing remedies in court).

Google’s Matt Cutts gives the world’s best example of why you should ignore them. Funny SEO Emails Part 6:

Folks at Google get cold-call emails out of the blue just like everybody else. Here’s an email that a colleague of mine got recently:

I was on your website www.google.com and wanted to shoot you a quick note. I think I can make a few changes (aesthetically and/or SEO – wise) to make your site convert more visitors into leads and to get it placed higher in the organic search results, for a few of the select terms.

So this person is offering help to convert Google visitors into leads. Or, you know, to improve Google’s rankings in organic search results. Sigh.

Here’s my rule of thumb: if someone sends you an email with an SEO offer out of the blue, be skeptical. For example, check out some other fun SEO emails that I’ve gotten in the past.

Internet Sales Taxes, Version 42

Tax-free Internet shopping jeopardized by bill:

The Senate voted 74 to 20 Monday to take up the bill. If that level of support continues, the Senate could pass the bill as early as this week.

Supporters say the bill is about fairness for businesses and lost revenue for states. Opponents say it would impose complicated regulations on retailers and doesn’t have enough protections for small businesses. Businesses with less than $1 million a year in online sales would be exempt.

The exemption is a good thing. Complying with sales taxes across 50 states is a large accounting hassle. Amazon supports the tax, undoubtedly because they’ll have an easier time complying than their smaller competitors:

Is anyone surprised that internet behemoth Amazon now supports an internet sales tax? Why would they do such a thing? The explanation is simple: the new law will be complex and difficult to comply with, which will shut down a lot of Amazon’s online competitors.

Like I’ve said before, I can’t cheer for an Internet sales tax. I don’t want to pay more taxes and I don’t want the government sticking their noses in one more area of business. On the other hand, from the point of view of local businesses it isn’t fair that they have to compete with out of state companies that don’t collect sales tax. I don’t think for one minute that fairness is motivating government to create the tax, revenue is, but it’s a valid argument for the tax.

Should an Internet sales tax become law, I’d expect some smaller ecommerce shops to move to platforms that simplify the accounting burden. For instance, Volusion, Yahoo Stores, and even Amazon.

Study: Real Photos Better Than Stock Photos

Marketing Experiments BlogThis Just Tested: Stock images or real people?

So what were the results? Well, Mrs. Generic finally met her match. It appears that an attractive smile is not a match for a good name. Overall, the familiarity hypothesis held some water. When the recognizable image of the founder was used, visitors were 35 % more likely to sign up for a free consultation. Remember, this is a 35% lift on top of many other previous gains in the testing-optimization cycle.

I was having a conversation with a friend who also works on websites just yesterday about how much we hate sites with generic, stock photos of people in offices. Nothing says “cheap, generic website like a photo of people in business clothes working on computers.

My friend told a funny story about his friend in the web design business who goes one step further. He takes a stock photo of an office building and Photoshops the business’s name on the side, even if they only have a couple of employees. Like no one will ever notice when they actually visit the business.

Stock photos are okay. Places like iStock.com make it easy to customize the look of a site with quality photographs for a few dollars. I have a client right now who does business locally rather than nationally, so I’m using stock photos of local landmarks so that visitors instantly know he’s local to them. It’s just the generic photos of smiling people that make a website look generic and insincere.

Amazon Reviews You Can Use

Playmobil Security Check Point at Mike’s.

Amazon Reviews You Can Use

How to Avoid Huge Ships:

This book really is one of the best huge ship avoidance references I’ve come across, not just for the effective methods it teaches as to avoiding huge ships, but also for exploding some of the huge ship avoidance myths that many of us take for granted.

For example:
– Do not charge the huge ship at full speed in an attempt to scare it off. This may work with coyotes, but it is less effective with huge ships.
– Similarly, do not roll your boat over and play dead. Unless the huge ship is captained by a grizzly bear, this will not work.
– Do not attempt to go under the huge ship. This is typically not successful.
– Do not attempt to jump over the huge ship.

I’m a little annoyed with the sarcastic “reviewers” of this book. You all seem to think it’s funny that some people would honestly like some expert advice on ways to avoid huge ships. What, you’ve never been traveling at a very, very slow speed straight toward something really, really big that you could see for miles and miles away, and wished you’d known what steps you could take to avoid crashing into it? Well, all I can say is “congratulations!” What’s it like to be so perfect? You haters just keep on enjoying your huge-ship-collision-free little fantasies. I for one am going to buy this book and learn something, because I live in the real world, where huge ships and the dangers they present to people like me are actually a serious issue.

The 2009-2014 Outlook for Wood Toilet Seats in Greater China:

This is so weird. My husband and I were just discussing the 2009-2014 outlook for wood toilet seats in greater China the other day. Now today, here I am surfing Amazon and wouldn’t you know it? The 2009-2014 outlook for wood toilet seats in greater China. I am so happy the price seems reasonable. I’m thinking Amazing Anniversary Present!!!!!!

I was thinking, “Sweet! Finally a version of Outlook that will run on my wooden Chinese toilet seats!!” Little did I know this has **NOTHING** to do with Outlook for Windows or any other MicroSoft product. It is NOT a five-year wooden-toilet email/calendar software product, but is in fact some kind of WELL-DONE REPORT ON TOILET SEATS!! By coincidence still entirely useful to me in my line of business but now I will have to find some other way to coordinate my inter-seat schedules and emails!! Buyer beware!!

It’s 2013. Do you know what your copyright statement says?

Time to update the copyright notice on your Web site and documents.